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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 24th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Race to Solar-Power Africa
By Bill McKibben, The New Yorker

27 June 17

American startups are competing to bring electricity to communities that remain off the grid.

he cacao-farming community of Daban, in Ghana, is seven degrees north of the equator, and it’s always hot. In May, I met with several elders there to talk about the electricity that had come to the town a few months earlier, when an American startup installed a solar microgrid nearby. Daban could now safely store the vaccine for yellow fever; residents could charge their cell phones at home rather than walking to a bigger town to do it. As we talked, one of the old men handed me a small plastic bag of water, the kind street venders sell across West Africa—you just bite off a corner and drink. The water was ice-cold and refreshing, but it took me an embarrassingly long moment to understand the pleasure with which he offered it: cold water was now available in this hot place. There was enough power to run a couple of refrigerators, and so coldness was, for the first time, a possibility.
I’d come to Daban to learn about the boom in solar power in sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of cell phones in the region has made it possible for residents to pay daily or weekly bills using mobile money, and now the hope is that, just as cell phones bypassed the network of telephone lines, solar panels will enable many rural consumers to bypass the electric grid. From Ghana, I travelled to Ivory Coast, and then to Tanzania, and along the way I encountered a variety of new solar ventures, most of them American-led. Some, such as Ghana’s Black Star Energy, which had electrified Daban, install solar microgrids, small-scale versions of the giant grid Americans are familiar with. Others, such as Off-Grid Electric, in Tanzania and Ivory Coast, market home-based solar systems that run on a panel installed on each individual house. These home-based systems can’t produce enough current for a fridge, but they can supply each home with a few lights, a mobile-phone charger, and, if the household can afford it, a small, super-efficient flat-screen TV.

In another farming town, in Ivory Coast, I talked to a man named Abou Traoré, who put his television out in a courtyard most nights, so that neighbors could come by to watch. He said that they tuned in for soccer matches—the village tilts Liverpool, but has a large pocket of Manchester United supporters. What else did he watch? Traoré considered. “I like the National Geographic channel,” he replied—that is, the broadcast arm of the institution that became famous showing Westerners pictures of remote parts of Africa.

There are about as many people living without electricity today as there were when Thomas Edison lit his first light bulb. More than half are in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe and the Americas are almost fully electrified, and Asia is quickly catching up, but the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady. A World Bank report, released in May, predicted that, given current trends, there could still be half a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa without power by 2040. Even those with electricity can’t rely on it: the report noted that in Tanzania power outages were so common in 2013 that they cost businesses fifteen per cent of their annual sales. Ghanaians call their flickering power dum/sor, or “off/on.” Vivian Tsadzi, a businesswoman who lives not far from the Akosombo Dam, which provides about a third of the nation’s power, said that most of the time “it’s dum dum dum dum.” The dam’s head of hydropower generation, Kwesi Amoako, who retired last year, told me that he is proud of the structure, which created the world’s largest man-made lake. But there isn’t an easy way to increase the country’s hydropower capacity, and drought, caused by climate change, has made the system inconsistent, meaning that Ghana will have to look elsewhere for electricity. “I’ve always had the feeling that one of the main thrusts should be domestic solar,” Amoako said. “And I think we should put the off-grid stuff first, because the consumer wants it so badly.”

Electrifying Africa is one of the largest development challenges on earth. Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe. “The belief was, you’d eventually build the U.S. grid here,” Xavier Helgesen, the American co-founder and C.E.O. of Off-Grid Electric, told me. “But the U.S. is the richest country on earth, and it wasn’t fully electrified until the nineteen-forties, and that was in an era of cheap copper for wires, cheap timber for poles, cheap coal, and cheap capital. None of that is so cheap anymore, at least not over here.”

Solar electricity, on the other hand, has become inexpensive, in part because the price of solar panels has fallen at the same time that the efficiency of light bulbs and appliances has dramatically increased. In 2009, a single compact fluorescent bulb and a lead-acid battery cost about forty dollars; now, using L.E.D. bulbs and lithium-ion batteries, you can get four times as much light for the same price. In 2009, a radio, a mobile-phone charger, and a solar system big enough to provide four hours of light and television a day would have cost a Kenyan a thousand dollars; now it’s three hundred and fifty dollars.

President Trump has derided renewable energy as “really just an expensive way of making the tree huggers feel good about themselves.” But many Western entrepreneurs see solar power in Africa as a chance to reach a large market and make a substantial profit. This is a nascent industry, which, at the moment, represents a small percentage of the electrification in the region, and is mostly in rural areas. There’s plenty of uncertainty about its future, and no guarantee that it will spread at the pace of cell phones. Still, in the past eighteen months, these businesses have brought electricity to hundreds of thousands of consumers—many of them in places that the grid failed to reach, despite a hundred-year head start. Funding, much of it from private investors based in Silicon Valley or Europe, is flowing into this sector—more than two hundred million dollars in venture capital last year, up from nineteen million in 2013—and companies are rapidly expanding their operations with the new money. M-Kopa, an American startup that launched in Kenya, in 2011, now has half a million pay-as-you-go solar customers; d.light, a competitor with offices in California, Kenya, China, and India, says that it is adding eight hundred new households a day. Nicole Poindexter, the founder and C.E.O. of Black Star, told me that every million dollars the company raises in venture capital delivers power to seven thousand people. She expects Black Star to be profitable within the next three years.

Like many of the American entrepreneurs I met in Africa, Poindexter has a background in finance. A graduate of Harvard Business School, she worked as a derivatives trader before leading business development at Opower, a software platform for utilities customers that was acquired by Oracle last year. (Unlike many of these entrepreneurs, who tend to skew white and male, Poindexter is African-American.) She decided to start the company in 2015, after she began to learn about energy poverty. She recalled watching TV coverage of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. “There was a lot of coughing in the background, and I was thinking, That’s someone with Ebola,” she said. “But it wasn’t. It was from the smoke in the room from the fire.” Last year, in the Ghanaian community of Kofihuikrom, one of the first towns that Black Star served, the company erected twenty-two solar panels. Today, the local clinic no longer has to deliver babies by flashlight. The town chief, Nana Kwaku Appiah, said that he was so excited that he initially left his lights on inside all night. “Our relatives from the city used to not come here to visit,” he said. “Now they do.”

When I visited the Tanzanian headquarters of Off-Grid Electric, in the city of Arusha, the atmosphere was reminiscent of Palo Alto or Mountain View, with standing desks and glassed-in conference rooms for impromptu meetings. Erick Donasian, the company’s head of service in Tanzania, grew up in a powerless house three miles from the office and joined the company in 2013; he said that, along with his enthusiasm for the company’s goals, one attraction of working there is that it is far less formal than many Tanzanian businesses, where “you have to tuck your shirt in, which I hate the most.” Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley influence was clearest in the T-shirt Helgesen wore. It read “Make something people want,” and sported the logo for Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s most famous incubator, where Helgesen’s wife had recently developed a bartering app.

Helgesen, who is thirty-eight years old and lanky, with hair that he regularly brushes out of his eyes, grew up in Silver Bay, Minnesota, a small town on the shore of Lake Superior. At fourteen, he came up with the idea of leasing the municipal mini-golf course for a summer, and tripled revenues by offering season passes and putting on special promotions for visiting hockey teams. As a sophomore at Notre Dame, in 1999, he set up a Web site that posted the college’s freshman register online, so that, as he put it, “you’d actually know who that cute girl you saw in anthro class was.” Helgesen started similar sites at other colleges, but, he told me, “I wasn’t as good a programmer as Zuckerberg. Even if I’d gotten it completely right, it would have been more Friendster than Facebook.” His first major company, Better World Books, founded in 2002, took the model of charity used-book drives and moved it online. It’s now one of the biggest sellers of used books on Amazon, and has helped raise twenty-five million dollars for literacy organizations, including Books for Africa.

Helgesen made his first trip to Tanzania in 2006, to visit recipients of Better World’s funding and to go on safari. “I was staying at a fancy lodge near Kilimanjaro, and I remember thinking, How do things really work around here?” Helgesen said. He paid a local man to take him to the nearest village. “I was peppering him with questions: ‘Do young people go to the city?’ ‘How much does coffee sell for?’ ” The experience, he said, “flipped my mind-set from ‘People in Africa are poor and they need our help and our donated books’ to ‘This is what an emerging economy looks like. This is young people, this is entrepreneurialism, this is where growth will be.’ ” During a second trip to Africa, he went scuba diving in Lake Malawi (“to see the cichlid fish, which keep their babies in their mouths”), and was invited to dinner by his scuba instructor. “It was a decent-sized town, maybe twenty thousand people, but absolutely no electricity,” Helgesen said. “It was all narrow alleys—they were bustling, but they were pitch-black.”

In 2010, Helgesen won a Skoll Scholarship to Oxford, for M.B.A. students seeking “entrepreneurial solutions for urgent social and environmental challenges,” and spent the year researching the renewables market. He found two like-minded business partners, and, in 2012, they set up shop in Arusha. At first, they planned to build solar microgrids to power cell-phone towers and sell the excess electricity to locals, but, Helgesen said, “it became clear that that was a pretty expensive way to go.” So they visited customers in their homes to ask them what they wanted. “Those conversations were the smartest thing we ever did,” Helgesen said. “I remember this one customer, she had a baby, and she would keep the kerosene lamp on low all night, as a night-light. It was costing thirty dollars a month in kerosene. And I was, like, Wow, for thirty dollars a month I could do a lot better.”

Helgesen decided to “start with the customer, and the price point they could pay, and build the business behind that.” Matt Schiller, the thirty-two-year-old vice-president of business operations, said that, in some ways, it is an easy sell. “If we talk to a hundred customers, not one says, ‘I’d rather have kerosene,’ ” he told me. “Not one says, ‘I’d like the warm glow of the kerosene lights.’ In fact, when we were designing the L.E.D.s, we focus-grouped lights. And the engineers assumed they’d want a warmer light, because that’s what they were used to. But, no, they picked the bluest, hardest light you can imagine. That’s modernity. That’s clean.”

There were solar panels in sub-Saharan Africa before companies like Off-Grid arrived, but customers generally had to pay for them up front, a forbidding prospect for many. “Cost is important to the customer at the bottom, but risk is even more important,” Helgesen told me. “A bad decision when you’re that poor can mean your kids don’t eat or go to school, which is why people tend to be conservative. And which is why kerosene was winning. There was no risk. You could buy it a tiny bit at a time.”

Off-Grid, like several of its competitors, finances the panels, so that people can pay the same small monthly amounts they were paying for kerosene. Customers in Tanzania put down about thirteen dollars to buy Off-Grid’s cheapest starter kit: a panel, a battery, a few L.E.D. lights, a phone charger, and a radio. Then they pay about eight dollars a month for three years, after which they own the products outright. The most popular system adds a few more lights and a flat-screen TV, for a higher down payment and about twice the monthly price. Customers pay their bill by phone; if they don’t pay, the system stops working, and after a while it is repossessed. That scenario, it turns out, is uncommon: less than two per cent of the loans in Tanzania have gone bad.

Despite Off-Grid’s Silicon Valley vibe, it faces challenges unfamiliar to software companies. Aidan Leonard, Off-Grid’s Arusha-based general counsel, told me that the company “requires a lot of people walking around selling things and installing things and fixing things. There’s a lot of hardware—someone’s got a physical box in their house, and a panel on the roof, and they have to pay for it on a monthly basis.” Poindexter, of Black Star, put the problem more bluntly. “We’re a utility company,” she told me, and utilities are a difficult business.

In America, utilities are burdened with infrastructure, such as the endless poles and wires that come down in storms. Off-Grid doesn’t have to worry about poles, and the wires only run a few feet, from panel to battery to appliance. Still, the company is working with technology that is brand-new and needs to be made cheaply in order to be affordable. When solar energy first came to Africa, it was expensive and unreliable. Arne Jacobson, a professor of environmental-resources engineering at Humboldt State University, in California, is a couple of decades older than most of the entrepreneurs I met in Africa. He got his doctorate studying the first generation of home solar in Kenya, in the late nineteen-nineties. “In Kenya, I was trying to understand the quality of the panels that had started to flood the market,” he said. Much of the technology had “big troubles. Chinese panels, panels from the U.K., all this low-quality junk coming in. Later, L.E.D.s that failed in hours or days instead of lasting thousands of hours, as they should. People’s first experiences were often really bad.”

Jacobson has spent his career in renewable energy; he helped build the world’s first street-legal hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicle, in 1998. He now runs Humboldt’s Schatz Energy Research Center. (“You want to know why a lot of early solar research happened in Humboldt?” he asked me. “Because there were a lot of back-to-the-land types here, and they had cash because they were growing dope.”) After seeing the unpredictability of solar technology, he created, in 2007, what he calls a “de facto consumer-protection bureau for this nascent industry.” The program, Lighting Global, which is run under the umbrella of the World Bank Group, tests and certifies panels, bulbs, and appliances to make sure that they work as promised. Jacobson credits this innovation with making investors more willing to put their money into companies such as Off-Grid, which has now raised more than fifty-five million dollars. His main testing lab is in Shenzhen, China, near most of the solar-panel manufacturers. He also has facilities in Nairobi, New Delhi, and Addis Ababa, and some of the work is still done in the basement of his building at Humboldt, where there’s an “integrating sphere” for measuring light output from a bulb, and a machine that switches radios on and off to see if they’ll eventually break.

Because many of Off-Grid’s potential customers have experience with bad products, or know someone who has, the company takes extra steps to build trust with its clients. After an Off-Grid installer shows up on his motorbike, he opens the product carton with great solemnity; in an Ivorian village, I watched along with seventeen neighbors, who nodded as the young man held up each component, one by one. He then climbed onto the roof of the house, nailed on a solar panel about the size of a placemat, and used a crowbar to lift up the corrugated-tin roof to run the wire inside. He screwed the battery box to the cement-block wall and walked the customer through the process of switching lights on and off several times, something the man had never done before. The company also offers a service guarantee: as long as customers are making their payments, they can call a number on the box and a repairman will arrive within three days. These LightRiders, as the company calls them, are trained to trouble-shoot small problems. They travel by motorcycle, and if they can’t make repairs easily they replace the system with a new one and haul the old unit back to headquarters.

This sales-and-installation system presents some engineering challenges. When the company expanded into Ivory Coast, last year, it had to redesign its packaging to fit on the smaller motorcycles used there. It also runs into problems coördinating coverage across a vast area where most houses don’t have conventional addresses. “We had to build our own internal software to make it possible,” Kim Schreiber, who runs Off-Grid’s marketing operations in Africa, said. “We optimize, via G.P.S. coördinates, the best routes for our riders to take. The LightRider turns on his phone every morning, and he has a list of his tasks for the day, so he knows what parts to take with him.”

Solar companies also contend with the complexity of the mobile-payment systems. In Ghana, where many customers don’t use mobile money, Poindexter’s Black Star team instead sells scratch cards from kiosks, which give customers a code they need to enter on their meter box to top up their account. Off-Grid delivers these codes over the phone, but the company still needs a call center, manned by fifteen people, to help customers with the mechanics of paying. Nena Sanderson, who runs Off-Grid’s Tanzanian operation, showed me the steps entailed in paying a bill through a ubiquitous mobile-money system called M-Pesa. There are ten screens, and the process ends with the input of a sixteen-digit code. “And I have a smartphone,” she said. “Now, imagine a feature phone, and imagine you may not know how to read, and the screen is a lot smaller, and it’s probably scratched up. Mobile money is a great enabler, but it’s not frictionless.” One of Off-Grid’s competitors, PEGAfrica, has printed the whole sequence on a wristband, which it gives to customers.

Because one of the biggest obstacles to the growth of solar power in the region is the lack of available cash, many of these companies are essentially banks as well as utilities, providing loans to customers who may have no credit history. That can make it hard to figure out what to charge people. “What you see in this space is at least eight to ten decent-sized pay-as-you-go solar companies, all trying to parse through what the actual end price to the customer really is,” Peter Bladin, who spent many years in leadership roles at Microsoft and now invests in several of these firms, told me. Bladin first started studying distributed solar—solar electricity produced near where it is used—in Bangladesh, where the Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus used his Grameen microcredit network to finance and distribute panels and batteries. Lacking that established financial architecture, companies in sub-Saharan Africa are constantly experimenting with different plans: Off-Grid began by offering ten-year leases, but found that customers wanted to own their systems more quickly, and so the payments are now spread out over three years. PEGAfrica customers buy their system in twelve months, but the company gives them hospitalization insurance as a bonus. Black Star is a true utility: the customers in the communities where it builds microgrids will always pay bills, but the charges start at only two dollars a month. (The business model depends on customers steadily increasing the amount of energy they buy, as they move from powering televisions to powering small businesses.) Companies like Burro—a Ghanaian outfit launched by Whit Alexander, the Seattle entrepreneur who founded Cranium games—sell lamps and chargers and panels outright, saving customers credit fees but limiting the number of people who can afford the products.

This uncertainty about the most practical financial model reflects the fact that in sub-Saharan Africa there is a great deal of economic diversity, both between countries and within them. One morning, I found myself walking down a line of houses in the Arushan suburb of Morombo. At the first house, a two-room cinder-block structure with a broken piece of mirror on one wall, a woman talked with me as we sat on the floor. The home represented a big step up for her, she said—she and her husband had rented a place for years, until they were able to buy this plot of land and build this house. She had a solar lantern the size of a hockey puck in her courtyard, soaking up rays. (Aid groups have distributed more than a million of these little lamps across the continent.) She assured me that she planned to get a larger solar system soon, but, for many of Africa’s poorest people, buying a lantern is the only possible step toward electrification.

Next door, a twenty-six-year-old student named Nehemiah Klimba shared a more solidly built house with his mother. It had a corrugated-iron roof on a truss that let hot air escape, and we sat on a sofa. Klimba said that, as soon as he finished paying off the windows, he was going to electrify. He and his mother were already spending fifteen dollars a month on kerosene and another four dollars charging their cell phones at a local store, so they knew they’d be able to afford the twenty dollars a month for a solar system with a TV.

One door down was the fanciest house I’d seen in weeks. It belonged to a soldier who worked as a U.N. peacekeeper, and the floors were made of polished stone. There was an Off-Grid solar system on the roof, but it was providing only backup power. The owner had paid a hefty fee to connect to the local electric grid, so he faced none of the limitations of a battery replenished by the sun. In his living room, he had a huge TV and speakers; a stainless-steel Samsung refrigerator gleamed in the kitchen.

“This is how the solar revolution happens—one hot sales meeting at a time,” Off-Grid’s Kim Schreiber whispered to me as we watched one of the company’s salesmen, an Ivorian named Seko Serge Lewis, at work. We were visiting the village of Grand Zattry with Off-Grid’s Ivory Coast sales director, Max-Marc Fossouo. A couple of dogs tussled nearby; a motorbike rolled past with six people on board. In the courtyard next to us, a woman was doing the day’s laundry in a bucket with a washboard. Her husband listened to the sales pitch from Lewis, who was showing him pictures on his cell phone of other customers in the village.

“That’s to build up trust,” Fossouo said. He’d been providing a play-by-play throughout the hour-long sales call. “This customer is on a big fence,” he said. “He’s stuck in the trust place. And I’m pretty sure the decision-maker is over there washing the clothes anyway.” Fossouo was born in Cameroon and went to school in Paris. In his twenties, he spent seven summers in the U.S., selling books for Southwestern Publishing, a Nashville-based titan of door-to-door marketing. (Rick Perry is another company alum; so is Kenneth Starr.) “I did L.A. for years,” he told me. “ ‘Hi, my name is Max. I’m a crazy college student from France, and I’m helping families with their kids’ education. I’ve been talking to your neighbors A, B, and C, and I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a place where I can come in and sit down?’ ” All selling, he said, is the same: “It starts with a person understanding they have a problem. Someone might live in the dark but not understand that it’s a problem. So you have to show them. And then you have to create a sense of urgency to spend the money to solve the problem now.”

The man turned down Lewis’s pitch. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments in the lean stretch before the next cacao harvest. “That’s crap,” Fossouo whispered, pointing again to the man’s wife. “He loves this woman, he can move the world for her.” When we went to the next house, Fossouo took over. This prospect was a farmer and schoolteacher, and they talked in his classroom, which had a few low desks with shards of slate on top. Fossouo had the man catalogue everything that he was spending on energy: money for kerosene, flashlight batteries, even the gas for the scooter that he borrowed when he needed to charge his phone. Then Fossouo showed him what he had to offer: a radio and four lights, each with a dimmer switch. “Where would you put the lamp?” he asked. “In front of the door? Of course! And the big light in the middle of the room, so when you have a party everyone could see. Now, tell me, if you went to the market to buy all of this, how much would it cost?” Fossouo tried angle after angle. “You have to think big here,” he said. “When I talked to your chief, he said, ‘Don’t think small.’ If your kid could see the news on TV, he might say, ‘I, too, could be President.’ ”

“This is great,” the man said. “I know you’re trying to help us. I just don’t have the money. Life is hard, things are expensive. Sometimes we’re hungry.”

Fossouo nodded. “What if I gave you a way to pay for it?” he asked. “So the dollar wouldn’t even come from your pocket? If you get a system, people will pay you to charge their phones. Or, if you had a TV, you could charge people to come watch the football games.”

“I couldn’t charge a person for coming in to watch a game,” the man said. “We’re all one big family. If someone is wealthy enough to have a TV, everyone is welcome to it.”

The hour ended without a sale, but Fossouo wasn’t worried. “It takes two or three approaches on average,” he said. “You always have to leave the person in a good place, where he loves you stopping by. This guy wants to finish building his house right now—his house is heavy on him—but it won’t be long.” As we talked, the first prospect came over, asking for a leaflet and a phone number. His wife, he said, was very interested.

The arrival of electricity is hard for today’s Westerners to imagine. Light means differences in sleeping and eating patterns and an increased sense of safety. I talked with one Tanzanian near Arusha who had traded in a kerosene lamp for five Off-Grid bulbs, including a security light outside his door that went on automatically when it got dark. “Crime is here,” he said, “but also dangerous animals. Especially snakes. So it’s good to have lights.” Everywhere I went, I met parents who said that their children could study at night. “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school,” one Ivorian father said. Several town chiefs told me that they hoped to get classroom computers, and one planned to mechanize the well so that townspeople would no longer need to pump water by hand. Farmers in West Africa were getting daily weather reports from Farmerline, a Ghanaian information service that uses G.P.S. to customize the forecasts. “If a farmer puts fertilizer on the field and then it rains, he loses the fertilizer—it washes away,” Alloysius Attah, a young Ghanaian entrepreneur who co-founded the service, told me. “And the farmers say they can’t tell the rain anymore. My auntie could read the clouds, the birds flying by, but the usual rainfall pattern has shifted.”

“Our killer app is definitely the television,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. “If the twenty-four-inch is out of stock, lots of people won’t buy.” Wandering through newly electrified towns, I saw teen-agers watching action movies. Black Star’s Poindexter told me, “There was a kid in town that I liked, Samuel, and when I came back after the power was turned on his arm was in a cast. He’d watched a karate show on TV, and he and his friends were playing it, and he broke his arm. I was horrified—I was, like, society is not prepared for this. And then I remembered that I did the same thing after I watched ‘Popeye’ as a kid. I ran right into the hedge and had to get twenty stitches. That’s kids and TV.”

In Daban, after I asked what the most popular program was, everyone began laughing and nodding. “ ‘Kumkum’!” people shouted. “Kumkum Bhagya,” an Indian soap opera set in a marriage hall and loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” airs every night from seven-thirty to eight-thirty, during which time village life comes to a standstill. “All the chiefs have advocated for everyone to watch, because it’s about how relationships are built,” the local chief, Nana Oti Awere, said. Of course, the changes brought about by electrification will affect local communities in unpredictable ways that will play out over many years. One mother I spoke to explained that the TV “keeps the children at home at night, instead of roaming around.” The Ivorian farmer who told me about the effects on his children’s grades went on to say, “In the old time, you had to go outside and talk. Now my neighbor has his TV, I have my TV, and we stay inside.”

A decade ago, most experts would have predicted that foreign aid, rather than venture capital, would play a central role in bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa. Off-Grid Electric has been funded by sources including Tesla and Paul Allen’s venture fund, Vulcan. Allen, one of the world’s richest men, is worth twenty billion dollars, or roughly half of the G.D.P. of Tanzania, a country of almost fifty-four million people. Should he be able to make yet more money off the electrification of African huts? There’s more than a whiff of colonialism about the rush of Westerners and Western money into Africa. As Attah, the young Ghanaian who helped found Farmerline, put it, “There are a lot of Ivy Leaguers coming to Africa to say, ‘I can solve this problem, snap, snap, snap.’ They’re doing good work, but little investment goes to community leaders who are doing the same work on the ground.”

The Westerners I spoke to, though they pledged to hire more local executives, didn’t think that the drive to help was incompatible with the desire to make money. As Poindexter put it, “There is a level of responsibility that I feel, and that I think any appropriate investor needs to have, about extraction versus contribution. I am not willing to be an extractive capitalist here, but I think that capitalism has an extremely important role to play in these communities.” Helgesen—who, despite his occasional oblivious tech-dudishness, spends most of his time in very remote places trying to provide power—is unapologetic about his company’s funding sources. Billionaires, he says, have the capital to make companies grow fast enough to matter. “Paul Allen didn’t invest because he thought it was the easiest way to make more money,” Helgesen said. “I got an awful lot of ‘no’s along the way from people who wanted easier money.” In any event, it’s not clear that other sources of funding are available, at least from the U.S.: Trump, pulling out of the Paris climate accord earlier this month, said that the country would not meet its pledge to help poor nations develop renewable energy, dismissing the plan as “yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called Green Climate Fund—nice name.”

Even when aid agencies are well funded, they haven’t always delivered. Over the last decade, a strong critique of aid, ranging from William Easterly’s “The White Man’s Burden” to Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid,” has laid much of the blame for Africa’s continued underdevelopment on the weaknesses of sweeping programs planned from afar. Still, aid agencies and global-development banks have a useful role to play in the energy transition. It will be years before it makes financial sense for solar companies to expand to the most remote and challenging regions of the continent. As new companies launch, they will need an infusion of what Helgesen calls “ultra-high-risk capital.” Private investors will supply it, he says, “but they want forty per cent of your company in return, which makes it hard to raise capital later on, because you’ve already sold off such a big chunk.” Some aid agencies have funded private ventures in the early stages, to help them get off the ground or reach new geographic areas. U.S.A.I.D. gave Off-Grid five million dollars toward its early costs, and, over the past few years, a Dutch development agency has given the company several hundred thousand euros as it has extended into the impoverished lakes region of Tanzania, where it otherwise wouldn’t have been profitable to go. Currency risks pose another problem: Poindexter told me that when she builds a Ghanaian microgrid she has invested in an asset with a twenty-year life span in a country where inflation is highly unpredictable. “We just had an election in the U.S. with huge consequences for policy,” she said. “But over here every election is potentially like that.” And, like anywhere in the world, national governments can make things easier by establishing clear policies. Rwanda’s leaders, for instance, specified the regions in which the rapidly developing country planned to extend its grid, thereby delineating where solar would be needed most.

“African leaders used to think solar was being pushed on them,” Clare Sierawski, who works on renewable energy with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency in Accra, said. “But now they all want solar. It’s a confluence of things. Mostly, it’s getting cheaper. And governments were tuned in to it by the Paris accord.” Ananth Chikkatur, who runs a U.S.A.I.D. project in the city, had just returned from taking thirteen high-ranking Ghanaians on a trip to study solar power in California. “Renewable energy should not be considered an alternative technology,” he said. “It’s becoming a conventional technology now.” Rwanda is not the only nation expanding its grid, and many countries are turning to large solar farms to generate power. Burkina Faso, for instance, has plans for solar arrays across its desert regions.

Distributed generation, however, is especially essential in rural areas, and it is growing fast—maybe, according to some observers, too fast. The investor Peter Bladin told me that the push for quick returns on investment could lead some companies to try to “squeeze more out of poor households” and warned about “mission drift, trying to make money off the backs of the poor in a dubious way.” Earlier this year, three principals from the impact-investment firm Ceniarth, which had put money into Off-Grid and similar companies, said that it was backing out of the industry for the time being. In an open letter, they wrote that the hype of venture capitalists and the lack of government regulation “puts consumers at risk and places a great deal of responsibility on vendors to self-police.” The gush of money, they cautioned, “may be too much, too fast for a sector that still has not fully solved core business model issues and may struggle under the high growth expectations and misaligned incentives of many venture capitalists.” Helgesen, unsurprisingly, disagreed with their analysis of investor over-exuberance. “It’s like looking at a Palm Pilot and saying, ‘This is not so great,’ ” he said. “Or even an iPhone 1. The iPhone 1 was a necessary step to the iPhone 7. People who have raised real money have not raised it on the premise that we’ll be selling the same stuff in ten years.” But he wasn’t waiting for the technology to mature. “We have to think about the future, and we have to sell something people want today,” he said.

Most customers I met had little interest in the fact that their power came from the sun, or that it was environmentally friendly. Since these communities weren’t using power previously, their solar panels fight climate change only in the sense that they decrease pressure to build power plants that consume fossil fuel. But some observers hope that the experience in Africa—which today has more off-the-grid solar homes than the U.S.—could help drive transformation elsewhere. Already, a few dozen American cities have pledged to become one-hundred-per-cent renewable. (Pittsburgh did so the day after Trump held up its theoretically beleaguered citizens as a reason for leaving the climate accord.) The U.S. has already sunk a fortune into building its electric grid, and it may seem far-fetched to think that users will disconnect from it entirely. But, as Helgesen told me, “As batteries get better, it’s going to be a lot more realistic for people to stop depending on their utility.” He thinks that, in an ideal world, technological change could lead to cultural change. “The average American has no concept of electrical constraint,” he said. “If we accept some modest restrictions on our power availability, we can go off-grid very quickly.”

For many people in the countries I visited, solar power is creating a new hope: for electric fans. When I was there, Off-Grid Electric was expanding from the relatively cool highlands around Mt. Kilimanjaro to the scorching, humid lowlands of West Africa, and in every village we visited the message was the same: The TV is great, the light bulb is great, but can I please have a fan? Many homes are poorly ventilated; windows are expensive, and can attract burglars. Fans, however, draw a comparatively large amount of current, threatening to quickly drain the battery that a solar panel has spent the day filling. And, unlike light bulbs or televisions, fans have moving parts that easily break. “Our customers tend to make heavy use of their equipment,” Off-Grid’s Schreiber said. Still, she promised one village after another that fans were coming soon.

Shea Hughes, Off-Grid’s product manager, is one of the employees charged with delivering on that promise. Hughes told me that he hopes to someday make Off-Grid’s product powerful enough to perform industrial tasks: pumping water for irrigation, milling cacao, and so on. “I’m confident solar is capable of doing that,” he said. “You just add more panels and you get to the power requirements you need. And as the price drops, well . . . ” He had recently been to a consumer-electronics fair in China. “I was amazed to see the prices,” he said.

For the moment, though, a workable fan would be nice. “We’d always thought a fan would take too much power for the current systems we’re selling,” Hughes said. “But the people in Ivory Coast were so insistent that we went back and looked at it.” Because of the emerging market for super-efficient appliances, in the U.S. and elsewhere, some manufacturers had a product that, as long as you kept it set to medium, drew only eight and a half watts. (The standard incandescent light bulb that hung in American hallways for generations drew sixty.) “We’ve told the manufacturer to eliminate the high-speed option,” Hughes said. “Now medium is high. And in our tests people are satisfied with the air speed. But they say the battery tends to run out at 3 or 4 A.M., and they typically sleep till 6 A.M. So it’s not perfect, but it’s getting there.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Vienna Energy Forum (VEF) 2017 Conference: “Sustainable energy for the implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement” convened 9-12 May 2017.


The VEF is a biennial, global multi-stakeholder forum, launched in 2008 to explore development challenges from the perspective of sustainable energy – and to debate solutions to those challenges. It is a joint initiative of the Austrian Government, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IASA) based in Laxenburg, Austria, and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) , as well based in Vienna.


[This year’s meeting overlapped The Bonn Climate Change Conference, organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, May 8-18, 2017 – a technical meeting dealing with areas like the Green house effects, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, green urban environments, Clean Energy … Nature’s Role. Obviously, this time conflict might have taken away some of the coverage of the Vienna event.]

VEF 2017 is intended to contribute to the practicalities in successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Paris Agreement. Among other things, it discussed the importance of the linkages between climate and development, and examined the role of innovation in achieving SDG 7 – “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” and related SDGs.

The Forum featured side events held on the UN Grounds in Vienna, from 9-10 May – followed by plenary sessions from 11-12 May.

The side events covered such topics as achieving SDG 7, sustainable energy solutions in landlocked developing countries, innovative business models to attract sustainable energy investment for least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS), capacity building, clean energy for migrants and vulnerable groups, improving energy access, technology transfer, modern cooking energy, achieving a low-carbon society, regional incubation networks, micro-grids, smart city development, energy scenarios for sub-Saharan African cities, catalyzing action on energy efficiency, global research initiatives in support of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement, and promoting women to advance the global energy transition.

The follow up plenary sessions promoted then dialogue on the nexus between energy, climate, transport, food, water and health, linkages among the key SDGs and their contribution to the 2030 Development Agenda, and the role of innovation as a global driver for sustainable growth.

In this reporting by Irith Jawetz, she goes over a few highlights of the Conference she attended at the Austrian Hofburg – the Austria Presidential quarters in Vienna.

Also here there were many plenary panels and side events which will hopefully be posted on the website at a later date.  www.viennaenergyforum.org/


The Opening ceremony of the Vienna Energy Forum 2017 took place on May 11, 2017 at the magnificent Festsaal in the Hofburg.

Here is a short summary of the presentations:

Master of Ceremonies was Ms. Ralitsa Vassileva, the news Director Bulgarian International Television, who was previously anchorwoman on CNN.

She thanked the 1,500 delegates from 100 countries and the 50 speakers who have assembled to attend this important Conference, whose main goal is to fight poverty through Sustainable Development.

The first speaker was Mr. Michael Linhart, Secretary General of the Austrian Ministry for Integration & Foreign Affairs. He mentioned that this Conference has started in Vienna in 2009 and was the first Forum leading the need for access to Sustainable Development. The latest important events were the International Conference on Sustainable Development in New York, September 2016 and the COP 21 – UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, December 2016 where the important Paris Agreement was signed. Both events, together with the current conference in Vienna will decide whether we are on the right track.

The next speaker was Ms. Maria Vassilaku, Vice Mayor of Vienna, member of the Austrian Green Party, who welcomed everybody to Vienna, the most beautiful, sustainable and liberal city. She especially mentioned that we have to tackle the question of Climate Change for our children.

Sustainable Development is defined by sustainable mobility, more public transport (Vienna has reduced the price of annual transportation ticket in order to entice people to leave their cars at home and use Public transportation).

Achieving the goals of Sustainability will only be done by involving people, industry, Governments, and private sectors.

She was followed by Mr. Li Yong, Director General of UNIDO who insisted that we must make sure the Paris Agreement is implemented in full.

Then came up Ms. Rachel Kyte, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, formerly with the World Bank in Washington DC. She was the most passionate of the speakers. She mentioned that 1 in 7 people on our planet do not have access to energy. This is unacceptable.

We have to give everybody a chance for access to energy. We need it for schools, clinics, food, shelter, and everybody must have the right to it. She pleaded that we have to move, and to move fast, promises made should be promises kept.

{Ms Kyte served until December 2015 as World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, leading the Bank Group’s efforts to campaign for an ambitious agreement at the 21st Convention of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21). She was previously World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, and was the International Finance Corporation Vice President for Business Advisory Services.]

Next came Prof. Pavel Kabat, Director General and Chief Executive Office at IIASA, International Institute for Applied Systems Analyses located in Laxenburg, Austria. He put the emphasis on research and vision. He said that one should not view Climate Change as a threat but as a new start, energy is a necessity and not a goal and sustainability will only be achieved when there is a partnership of private and public sector.

The Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Ms. Chtistine Stix-Hackl read an official statement from the Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who welcomed all participants to the Conference in Vienna, which has become a hub for Energy. The President stressed the importance of implementing the Paris Agreement and making sure that the goals set in that agreement will be met .

Andrä Ruprechter, Austrian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment & Water Management also mentioned the two conferences in 2016 in New York and Paris and said that we can and will clear the pathway to a clean energy future for all. He was looking forward to the next Climate Change Conference in November 6-17, 2017, in Bonn, Germany. Climate Change is a Global problem and needs Global solutions. He vowed that Austria will stick with the Paris agreement.

Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with independent Charge for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines in the Government of India was also very passionate in his speech. The world is changing since Thomas Edison discovered the light bulb and it is for us now, and not later, to do something in order to save the world. India is committed to the Paris Agreement even if other World leaders are not (this was the first time the audience clapped during a speech). Prime Minster Modi is a conservationist of Energy and under his leadership India has promoted energy efficiency for the last years and has reduced the use of electricity by a lot by using only energy saving light bulbs. He hopes that by 2019 every lights bulb will be replaced.


Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United nations and former Minister of Environment of Nigeria, also stressed that we must address Climate Change since it is a scientific fact, in spite of recent talks to the contrary
(this remark caused more clapping from the audience). The Paris Agreement has to be implemented in full in order to fight Climate Change and more important poverty. It is unacceptable that 1 in 7 people on the planet have no access to electricity.

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The second day started with the Ministerial segment moderated by Ms. Tania Rödiger-Vorwerk, Deputy Director General, Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation & Development (BMZ), Germany. Let us remember that upcoming COP 23 of the UNFCCC will be held in Bonn, Germany, this November 6-17.

The keynote speaker was the very passionate and eloquent Prime Minister of Tuvalu, H.E. Enele Sopoaga. Being the Head of one of the endangered islands, he stressed the importance of regarding Climate Change as a real danger. He expressed solidarity with the Paris Agreement and stressed the importance of action to combat Climate Change. Survival is at stake, Governments & Private sectors of all countries have to work together to make sure the use of Renewable sources is increased. Tuvalu has numerous programs in that direction and hopes to achieve 100% use of Renewable sources of energy by the year 2020. Tuvalu is fully committed to explore Renewable energy from oceans but needs help in technology. 10,000 people in very small islands which are part of Tuvalu have already 100% electricity, but a lot still has to be done. He called upon all countries not to listen to diversion from the problems of Climate Change but “keep everybody on the boat & canoe”. Every country has to be on board and support the goals of developing Sustainable energy for all at all costs.

His speech caused a round of applause from all participants.

The other Ministers on the Podium were H.E. Ms. Jabulile Mashwama, Minister of Natural Resources & Energy of Swaziland who also stressed that Renewable agenda comes at a high cost, it’s coming slowly, but it has to happen.

H.E. Mr. Khaled Fahmy, Minister, Egypt Environmental affairs Agency, also supported in full the Paris Agreement, this is a Global agreement and all countries have to respect and adapt it. Egypt hopes to achieve 20% of renewable energy by 2020 which comes mainly from solar and wind. In order to implement this goal, the private sector must be involved, especially in order to bear the costs. This is a critical issue and the pace is too slow.

H.E. Mr. Aziz Rebbah, Minister of Energy, Mines & Sustainable Development from Morocco, home of the COP 22 of the UNFCCC in 2016, strives to achieve 52% of renewable energy by 2030 which will come mainly from solar power.

A very moving side event which Ms. Jawetz attended, and would like to share, was the “Networking Event: Women for Sustainable Energy”. This networking event connects people and provides a platform for knowledge sharing and exchange. It raises awareness on the potential of sustainable energy for women’s empowerment, and featured short presentations by women leaders in the energy sector. It provided insights into a broad range of career paths and initiatives that target women’s empowerment in the clean energy sector. This event was meant to promote sustainable energy approaches that have strong impact on gender equality and highlighted the major role of women in making the energy sector more sustainable. The event was hosted by UNIDO and supported by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Center for Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), the Global Women’s Network for Energy Transition (GWNET) and the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy (ENERGIA).


Before the closing session started we heard a short speech by Mr. Kandeh Yumkella, who is now a Sierra Leonean Agricultural economist and politician, and was, for many years, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, first as head of UN Energy and then for Sustainable Energy for All during the years 2009-2016. He was instrumental in organizing all the past Vienna Energy Forum events. He thanked everybody for inviting him this time as a guest and participant, and stressed time and again that “Energy for All” is the key for everything, and one has to take the fight from Vienna to New York and spread the word.

The closing remarks were carried out by Mr. Philippe Scholtes, Managing Director, Programme Development and Technical Cooperation Division (PTC), UNIDO.

He thanked all the organizers for the successful event and counted 10 key massages:

1) Role of Energy in 2030 – urgency agenda for sustainable development;

2) Urgency in developing energy for food, security, land, water & health nexus;

3) Developing sustainable cities and urban communities, the need for use of sustainable energy for infrastructure;

4) Need to adapt to Climate Change by using clean energy;

5) Pioneering role of innovative technologies are a central piece of sustainable energy;

6) Financing innovative business models. Sustainable solutions depend on innovative businesses;

7) Catalysts for innovation – Governments needs to stimulate innovation and develop energy system support research & development;

8)Innovation for Appropriate & Sustainable solutions, planning frugal, flexible & inclusive energy systems;

9) Energy is ca crucial component for implementing of the 2029 agenda;

10) Businesses & Private sector must be included in implementing the Paris agreement.


All in All a very successful Conference, but the work is not done yet. To quote Ms. Rachel Kyte: “Promises made should be promises kept!”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 22nd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Bertelsmann Stiftung at PRESSE CLUB CONCORDIA, Bankgasse 8, 1010 Vienna.

TUESDAY APRIL 25, 2017, 11:00-14:00

with Academics originally from Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Sudan.

In 2015 – one million refugees to europe; in 2016 – 300,000; in 2017 – what now?

TURKEY IS A SPECIAL CASE – Many of their Austrian Residents and Citizens are now lining up
at the Turkish government representations to turn back their Turkish Passports and renouncing their Turkish Citizenship. This in order to avoid the Stigma of dual citizenship that
Mr. Erdogan forced theM into by campaigning among them for his intent to undo democracy in his country. They voted for him forgetting that he became persona non grata in Europe and so will they.

see:

’Escaping the escape – Europe and the refugee crisis’
Tuesday, 25 April 2017, 11:00-14:00 hrs
Bertelsmann Stiftung in cooperation with The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw)
Location:
Presseclub Concordia Bankgasse 8
1010 Vienna
In 2015, more than one million refugees and migrants came to Europe, in 2016 nearly 300,000. How many will enter in 2017? What can we, in Europe, expect with wars and conflicts continuing and driving people from our neighbourhood to European shores? What is the situation in the source and transit countries of refugees and migrants that are most affected? How can the life of refugees, migrants and host communities be improved?
Listen to and debate with experts from Afghanistan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Libya, Sudan and Nigeria: what solutions for the humanitarian migration crisis do they recommend? What are their proposals for EU actors to improve European policies?
Be our guest and meet
Mariam Safi, Afghanistan, founding director of the Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies (DROPS);
Dane Taleski, FYROM, adjunct professor at the South East European University in T etovo/Skopje;
Zakariya El Zaidy, Libya, protection team leader for the Danish Refugee Council in Libya; J. Shola Omotola, Nigeria, professor of Political Science at the Federal University Oye
Ekiti in Nigeria; and
Amira Ahmed Mohamed, Sudan, assistant professor at the Department of International Development and Social Change at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
We will take this opportunity to launch a new Bertelsmann Stiftung publication
’Escaping the Escape – Toward solutions for the humanitarian migration crisis’
Please register for the event.

AND FOR THE ERDOGAN IMPOSED PROBLEM OF THE AUSTRIAN TURKS:

 www.krone.at/oesterreich/zweitpas…

Zweitpass zurück! Türken stürmen nun die Konsulate
Angst vor Strafen
21.04.2017, 19:57
Neuer Wirbel um illegale Doppelstaatsbürger: Die heimischen Konsulate werden auch nach dem Ende des türkischen Verfassungsreferendums von Austro-Türken gestürmt – diesmal allerdings nicht wegen eines “Ja” zur umstrittenen Reform von Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sondern um verbotene Zweitpässe abzugeben! Offenbar geht die Angst vor Strafen um …

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 13th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from Duncan Douglas

Dear Colleagues,
NAEE2017 is your Best Opportunity to Meet the Top Decision Makers in the Nigerian Renewable Energy Industries!

Make a plan now to be part of Africa’s fastest-growing energy market: register to be part of the 7th #NAEE2017; the leading event of renewable energy event Nigeria covering in Solar, Wind, Gas, experts across Africa and beyond.

#NAEE2017 will be held from October 18 – 20, 2017 in Abuja Nigeria.

#NAEE2017 – Nigeria Alternative Energy eExpo 2017 – allows you to showcase your products and services and meet face to face with high-level buyers who come to NAEE to source for solutions to the challenges they face every day. The depth of the conference program and quality of the exhibition have a proven track record of attracting a high-quality and influential audience.

As an Exhibitor, you will:
– Gain visibility in front of influential decision makers.
– Meet with high-level executives.
– Form valuable partnerships with leading services providers.

Don’t miss the best opportunity in 2017 to interact with the most influential Energy professionals in Nigeria – Act Today!

For more information, please contact San Sue, Telephone: +44 203 239 6611 Mobile:+44 770 030 9195
E:  info at nigeriaalternativeenergyexpo.org
or Visit www.nigeriaalternativeenergyexpo.org

————————————————-

Douglas Duncan  info at nigeriaalternativeenergyexpo.org via lists.iisd.ca
Jan 19

to Sustainable

The Advisory Board of the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo (NAEE 2017) invites Energy experts to present a paper at the 7th NAEE in Abuja, from October 18 to 20, 2017. The 7th Edition of the Nigeria Alternative Energy Expo (NAEE 2017) aims to provide an international forum to facilitate discussion and knowledge exchange of findings of current and future challenges and opportunities in all aspects of renewable and sustainable energy.
This year event theme is “Harnessing tomorrow’s Energy Today: A Unified Approach “». The development of renewable energy will be driven by the mutual exchange between future market requirements and technical innovation. In that respect, the NAEE 2017 offers an excellent opportunity for the whole value chain, from equipment and material suppliers up to application driven players and from academic research institutions up to downside industry, to share and discuss leading-edge renewable energy technologies.

Since its beginning in 2011, international attendees representing over 40 countries from all continents have participated in NAEE, internationally renowned keynote speakers have presented latest achievements in the transition to renewable energy.

The scope of NAEE2017 covers a broad range of hot topics like renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency, green energy, climate change, sustainable energy systems and smart grid.
This 7th edition will be organized into 5 PLENARY SESSIONS covering all topics of interest of the whole value chain. We invite you to express interest by visiting: www.nigeriaalternativeenergyexpo…. or send us email:  loc at nigeriaalternativeenergyexpo.org

Deadline to submit your abstract was Friday, February 24 2017.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EUobserver NEWS – ENERGY

EU-Israeli gas pipeline to compete with Russia.

By ANDREW RETTMAN

BRUSSELS, April 4, 2017 – 09:14

The EU and three member states have backed a plan for Israel to reduce Europe’s gas dependence on Russia – The European Commission and ministers from Cyprus, Greece, and Italy signed up to build a new gas pipeline from Israel to Europe at a meeting in Tel Aviv on Monday (3 April).


Israeli gas considered safer than Russia’s, which has been used for political blackmail


The 2,200-km East-Med pipeline would connect Israeli and Cypriot offshore gas fields to Greece and Italy.

It is designed to come online in 2025 with a capacity of up to 16 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year.

It would be the longest and deepest ever built, but an EU co-financed feasibility study by Italian firm IGI Poseidon said the project should go ahead.

Speaking in Tel Aviv on Monday, EU energy commissioner Miguel Arias Canete took a swipe at a competing Russian project, Nord Stream 2.


“North Stream is a pipeline [that] adds nothing to the [EU’s] security of supply,” he said.

He said the commission’s strategy was “to diversify sources, routes, and suppliers” and hinted that Israel was a safer partner than Russia, which has used gas to blackmail neighbouring countries.


“Cyprus and Israel are very reliable suppliers,” he said.

With Nord Stream 2 disliked by Baltic, central European, and Nordic states, Canete added that the Israeli project “is a pipe that unites and will have the full support of all the members of the European Union”.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s energy minister, said US investment banks, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, got excited about the €6 billion project when they learned that the commission was on board.

“When they heard that the European energy commissioner was behind it [and] ready to give some assistance, that was very helpful,” he said.

He said the amount of gas discovered for export so far, up to 500 bcm, was “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Carlo Calenda, Italy’s economic development minister, said Rome would seek the backing of the G7 club of wealthy nations, which includes Canada, Japan, and the US, for the pipeline at a summit in Sicily in May.

The Cypriot energy minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said the project would “showcase” the region’s potential as an alternative EU supplier.

The much bigger Nord Stream 2 pipeline is designed to pump 55 bcm of gas a year to Germany from 2020, concentrating EU supplies in Russia and Germany’s hands.

It faces open questions on whether EU laws would apply to its offshore section, as well as complaints from the Polish energy regulator, but Russia has already started buying pipe segments.


Political risk


The East-Med pipeline is to run through Cypriot waters to avoid disputed maritime zones with Turkey and Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

But EU-Israeli cooperation carries other political risks.

According to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, the EU’s envoy to Israel delivered a stinging rebuke on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians last week.

He said Israeli evictions in the West Bank constituted “forced transfers” in violation of Israel’s “obligations” under the Geneva Convention as an “occupying power”.

The ambassador, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, read out the EU note, which had been approved by all 28 member states in the bloc’s Political and Security Committee, at a meeting with Israel’s top foreign ministry official.

The EU foreign service had planned to hold a summit with Israel in February to upgrade relations, but plans were put on hold after a surge in Israeli settlement expansion.

——————————————
That means the major political risk as seen by the EU is thus the treatment by Israel of the Palestinians – but here at SustainabiliTank we are now confident that Trump is working on this so possible realignments are on the political horizon as well.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 2nd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Jerusalem Post Opinion Piece of this Weekend.

BY ILAN EVYATAR MARCH 30, 2017 20:50


EARS TO THE GROUND: In approaching Middle East peace, Trump should focus on the attainable, not the improbable.

The Annual Arab League Summit took place in Amman this week with US President Donald Trump’s international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, in attendance as part of his Middle East “listening tour.” Greenblatt told Arab foreign ministers in the Jordanian capital that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible and reaffirmed Trump’s desire to pull off a deal.

Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah will all be in DC over the next month and peace talks will be high on the agenda at all of those meetings.

Reports have suggested that Trump is looking into the possibility of hosting a Middle East summit with Abbas, Netanyahu and Arab leaders, including from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

“The time has come to make a deal,” Greenblatt said before heading to Amman. Arab foreign ministers expressed their support for a two-state solution in the summit’s closing statement. Abbas, too, told Greenblatt a deal is possible, while Netanyahu also said he is committed to working with Trump “to advance peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors.”

Reports have suggested that Trump is looking into the possibility of hosting a Middle East summit with Abbas, Netanyahu and Arab leaders, including from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

“The time has come to make a deal,” Greenblatt said before heading to Amman. Arab foreign ministers expressed their support for a two-state solution in the summit’s closing statement. Abbas, too, told Greenblatt a deal is possible, while Netanyahu also said he is committed to working with Trump “to advance peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors.”

The ball is rolling and diplomatic crunch-time is approaching. All sides will have to decide how to turn their words into actions and what positions they will bring to the table.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has said that he is in discussions with the US administration over ground rules for settlement construction in the West Bank. Yesterday he hinted that he was about to approve a new settlement, the first in 25 years, for the 40 families evicted from Amona – perhaps a hint that some kind of understanding has been reached on the matter.

But if the Trump administration is serious about convening a Middle East summit, then there will be greater issues for Netanyahu to decide upon.

Is Trump really serious? Or is he just going through the motions? If he does convene a summit, will he make do with a photo-op that gets Israel and the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states on the same stage for the first time or does he really think he can clinch the “ultimate deal”? Does he really believe he can succeed where all other presidents have failed?

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WE WROTE YESTERDAY THAT WE THINK TRUMP IS VERY SERIOUS ON THE MIDDLE EAST – THIS IS ACTUALLY THE ONLY AREA HE COULD PULL OFF A SUCCESS THESE DAYS.

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For all the talk about a convergence of interests between Israel and the moderate Sunni states that are all threatened by Iran, it is highly unlikely that the Middle East’s strange bedfellows will go public with their relationship without Israel’s prior agreement to conditions it cannot accept.

Furthermore, relations with Israel are hardly a priority for Saudi Arabia, as senior Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi wrote a few months back. Its priorities, he says, are economic reforms and the security threats posed by Iran and the collapse of neighboring countries – issues in which Israel cannot take a direct role. And when it comes to Iran, the worst thing Saudi Arabia could do, he said, is to be publicly aligned with Israel against Tehran.

While tacitly acknowledging existing ties in certain fields, he notes, “Whatever the kingdom needs is accessible without his help. If we presume that we need to buy an advanced Israeli device to accomplish a strategic Saudi project, there are a thousand third parties that are ready to buy the device and re-export it to us.”

As for the Palestinians and Israelis, Trump is hardly likely to have too much luck on that front either. It remains true that the maximum Israel is willing to give the Palestinians is less than the minimum the Palestinians are willing to accept and vice versa, and the fact that Trump prides himself on being a man who knows how to cut a deal will not change that.

If Greenblatt has been listening to his interlocutors on his tour he should report back to the president that conditions are not ripe for the ultimate deal, but that common interests do exist.

While a regional peace deal would obviously be desirable, rather than risk almost certain failure – that could well result in a new round of violence in a bid for an all-embracing final status agreement – Trump should concentrate on interim solutions; those that increase Palestinian autonomy, build up the Palestinian economy and institutions of state, increase freedom of movement, rein in settlement construction to the blocs and develop ties between Israel and the moderate Sunni states where common interests exist.

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WE BELIEVE THE TIME FOR SMALL MOVES IS OVER – THEY LED NOWHERE AND THIS WAS FOR ALL TO SEE.
TRUMP WILL HAVE TO DO IN BUSINESS WAYS ARM-TWISTING AND DISH OUT LOTS OF CANDY TO BUILD ON EXISTING PLANS AND HAVE THEM SUGAR COATED. THE TRUTH IS THAT BY NOW ALL MAIN ACTORS OUGHT TO BE INTERESTED IN THE TRUMP DEAL. TRUMP – JUST GO FOR THE GOLD AND LET NOBODY HOLD YOU BACK.
YOU STARTED WELL BY NOT GOING TO AIPAC.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 11th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Exxon eyes Israel after Cyprus win

 www.globes.co.il/en/article-exxon…

9 Mar, 2017 14:09
Nati Yefet

After winning a Cypriot government tender, Exxon Mobile has expressed interest in bidding for Israeli natural gas tenders.

Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz met last week with senior executives from Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell during his visit to the US. The minister’s associates say that while Royal Dutch Shell will probably not take part in the new tender for oil and gas exploration licenses in Israeli waters, the Exxon Mobil executives came equipped with a great deal of relevant information, and expressed interest in the tender.

The reason is allegedly the announcement two days ago that Exxon had won a tender for oil and gas exploration in Block 10 in Cyprus as part of a consortium with Qatar Petroleum. A group composed of Italian company ENI and Total, and ENI by itself, won the concession for two other blocks in the tender.

In a fourth block already held by Total, the company asked the Cypriot government for permission to add ENI as a 50% partner in the license, because the block is located only six kilometers away from the Egyptian Zohr gas reservoir discovered by ENI. Total expects ENI’s extensive knowledge of the geology in the area to be of use in finding gas in Cyprus.

Steinitz’s associates say that since Exxon is starting to prepare for activity in a nearby area, the company believes that it is likely to prove worthwhile to develop parallel activity in Israel, and to use the same transportation infrastructure to export gas discovered in both countries to Europe.

Steinetz went to Europe early this week, and flew from there to New York and Houston for a week of meetings with energy concerns. In Rome, he met with his Italian counterpart, and held meetings in New York with the Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan investments banks, as well as with a group of private investors organized by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). In Houston, he took part in the CERAweek energy conference, and held meetings with energy companies.

Steinitz told “Globes,” I was surprised to see energy ministers and representatives of energy companies from all over the world congratulate us on the beginning of development in Leviathan, after years of delay. Almost everyone had assumed that Leviathan was a lost cause… especially given the global crisis in investments in oil and gas fields and the fact that some of the deep water projects of the Leviathan type have been canceled or postponed in various places around the world.


“In meetings with some of the world’s largest investment banks, they noted the change in Israel’s image in the energy market, from a place to be avoided into a responsible country attractive for energy investments in general, and private gas in particular. The plans we displayed for building an undersea pipeline to Turkey, and from Israel and Cyprus to Greece and Italy, aroused a surprising degree of interest.”

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Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News – www.globes-online.com – on March 9, 2017
and appears in many Israeli publications, i.e. The Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2017

SustainabiliTank, sorry for the Trump Administration’s definitive efforts to undo the Obama Administration’s great successes in decreasing the place of oil in the global energy markets,
sees now a decreasing importance of the EPA, Energy Policy, Environment Policy and Global Climate Change avoidance. But also a planed subservience of The State Department to the US oil Interests – the revival of the American Petroleum Institute (API) in the Governing of the USA.
Geting the present Israel Government interested in the cooperation in developing sea resources could perhaps take off some of the pressure in the political arena, though clearly inctreasing
pressure against the potential of an Iranian sea base on Syrian soil. All of this within Israel and US State Department attention.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 9th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This week I got an e-mail from the Sierra Club titled – CAN HIKING HEAL? This was in my mind when visiting with the SPNI headquarters in Tel Aviv.

We all now about the APPALACHIAN TRAIL that was completed in 1937 as a sponsored work during the Great Depression years – it took more than a decade of work,

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the A.T., is a marked hiking trail in the Eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. The A.T. is about 2,200 miles long, though the exact length changes over time as parts are modified or rerouted. More than 2 million people are said to do at least one day-hike on the trail each year.

SPNI is the “Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel” – the counterpart of the American Sierra Club and they helped create THE ISRAEL TRAIL. Can this become a healing tool in the local political conflict? Will Arabs and Jews use this trail in harmony?

Given a map of this I.T. I decided to list its course.

Actually it was inaugurated in 1995, named Israel National Trail (INT) and stretches 620 mile. It starts at the Ussishkin House in the Upper Galilee – Named for Menachem Ussishkin, a Zionist leader from Russia, the house is an SPNI museum and starting point for hikes.

From there the trail goes south close to Kefar Giladi, Kiriath Schmone, Baram, Miron,towards the the Kineret Sea. Passes Tveria and bends westwards avoiding the West Bank and aiming rather towards Nazareth and Shfaram with their Israeli Arab citizenry. From there through Yagur and Druze Ussefia towards the Nediterranean Sea Shore at Ein Hod, Zichron Yaakov, Binjamina, Caesarea, Hadera, Netania, towards North of Tel Aviv where it turns inland towards Petach Tikva. from there South-East inside the 1967 borders Schoresh and Beit Zait without reaching Jerusalem. Rounding back South West outside the Southern part of the West Bank.
The trail reaches Beit Gobrin and rounding towards Arad. From here it changes direction southwards through the Negev and ends at a border crossing to Egypt south of Eilat.
Hopefully some day it will link with an extension into the Sinai Peninsula and its mountainous areas – a complete culture and nature trail.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Kury Bayer was Board Director at the World Bank (2002/2004) and Board Director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2008/12). Since then consultant, columnist and member of think-tanks. He also runs a blog.

Kurt Bayer’s Commentary – GLOBAL ECONOMIC POLICY

FEBRUARY 23, 2017

TRUMP’S SWAMP

During his campaign, US president Trump had promised to dry out the swamp in Washington, D.C. (Austrians will remember the former President Kirchschläger’s announcement, “die sauren Wiesen Österreichs auszutrocknen”). And then, during the week that the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was confirmed by the Senate, the House of Representatives voted to abolish the „Publish what you pay“ rule, which required listed US gas and oil companies to publish in their annual reports all payments made to foreign governments, be they royalties, fees, bonuses, taxes and any other payments, project by project, country by country.

This rule was part of the Dodd-Frank Act (Section 1504), enacted after long consultation in 2010 as part of the lessons learned from the financial crisis.

It is noteworthy that Mr. Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, had vigorously lobbied against this rule.

Has he now been given a swampy „inaugural dowry“ by his president?

With the original provision, the US had become the leading country to attempt to weed out the endemic corruption enabled by the international hydro-carbon firms to the benefit of the decisionmakers in oil and gas-rich countries.

We know that many of the prime ministers and their ministers in oil-rich countries have become exceedingly rich, while their populations starve.

The Financial Times on Feb. 23, 2017 cites the example of Equatorial Guinea (with ExxonMobil the dominant producer), where per-capita income for the country as a whole has risen to
$ 40.000, while three quarters of the population starve on less than 2 $ per day (the „official“ poverty rate).

Similar conditions reign all over the world. While „Publish-as-you-pay“ may not be the silver bullet against corruption, it was an important first step and has been followed by Canada, Norway and the EU (EU Transparency Directive 2013). A number of international oil companies have begun to report, others were to follow.

Of course, by now we know that the Trump administration (with or without Mr. Tillerson) is partial to the oil, gas and coal industry. His decisions on reversing the existing bans on the Keystone pipeline, on the Dakota access line, on coal mining is only topped by his appointment (and the Senate‘s confirmation) of Mr. Pruitt, the former Oklohoma attorney general, who has 12 lawsuits against his new agency under his belt, and who during his hearing did not agree that hydro-carbons and coal cause climate change.

So, in his first 100 days, President Trump has struck significant blows against world-wide corruption in one of the worst offending sectors, and against the environment, whose protection he (and Congress) have entrusted to a fox in the henhouse.

ExxonMobil will be grateful, as will be a number of dictators and autocrats in many of the oil and gas producing countries.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research

6th International Conference on Deserts, Drylands & Desertification (DDD).

November 6-9, 2017, Sede Boqer Campus, Israel,

(DDD) has emerged since 2006 as an important Science of Development Conference with close to 1000 participants from many developed and developing countries. These subjects impact in effect the majority of the countries and regions of the world – not just the on-going preoccupation of that time with Africa – of the UN or UNEP.

The subject evolved after the Rio Summit of 1992 and the Brazilian Insistence that Dry Lands – arid and semi-arid – are wide spread – even to counties held responsible for the plight of the Amazonas.

Following the success of the previous five international biennial conferences 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, though no conference was held in 2016, but the 2017 6th conference – to be this November – is now in full gear – and this year’s focus is on Healthy Lands and Healthy Collection and Treatment • Remote Sensing Applications for Drylands.

The list of advertised topics includes:

– Ecology of Drylands
– Afforestation in Drylands
– Carbon Footprint
– Desert and Drylands Archeology
– Dryland Agriculture
– Irrigation
– Mathematical Asects, Modeling and Analysis for Dryland Research
– Ecohydrology of Dryland Landscapes
– Geological Aspects of Deserts and Desertification
– GIS Application for Dryland Studies
– Hydrology in Drylands
– NGO perspectives on Dryland Development
– Nutritional and Food Security
– On-site Waste Collection and Treatment
– Remote Sensing Application for Drylands
– Soil and Land Restoration
– Green Roofs an Urbn Forestry
– Women and Economic Change in Rural Arid Lands

Additional topics may be included.
Topics can be submitted till April 1, 2017 and Abstracts have to be submitted by May 15, 2017.

www.desertification.bgu.ac.il at www.bgu.ac.il

write to  desertification at bgu.ac.il

Prof. Pedro Berliner and Prof. Arnon Karnieli, Chairs of the Organizing Committee
Ms. Dorit Korine, Conference Coordinator.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Foreign Policy Editors’ Picks, presented by the Embassy of Germany in Washington, D.C.
: Cambodia wants China as its neighborhood bully; and a U.S. intel chief fires back at Trump in feud over Russian election meddling.

AMAZING! FOREIGN POLICY – foreignpolicy.com – is a Magazine of global politics, economics and ideas. Published bimonthly in print and daily online by the Slate Group, a division of the Washington Post Company. (See also an attachement at the end of this posting.)

Starting January 2017 we started receiving the daily FP e-mail saying it was sponsored by Germany — Sponsored Content — “SHAPING AN INTERCONNECTED WORLD”: That is the motto of Germany’s G20 Presidency in 2017. The stability of the global economy will be a top issue. The highlight of the Presidency will be the leaders’ summit on July 7 and 8 in Hamburg. Learn more. (This from the Wednesday, January 4th mailing)


It seems to us, that in view of the expressed lack of interest in an “interconnected world”
on the part of the incoming Trump Administration, this while Germany as incoming leader of the G20 has the opposite opinion, it is logical for German Policy to lend its shoulder to the Foreign Policy Magazine and sponsor the continuation of its very important task.


Now – to the information we found in today’s incoming mail – January 6, 2017:


“Shaping an interconnected world”: That is the motto of Germany’s G20 Presidency from December 1, 2016, to November 30, 2017.

The highlight of the Presidency will be the leaders’ summit on July 7 and 8, 2017, in Hamburg.


Making globalization benefit everybody:

Germany would like to use its G20 Presidency to intensify international cooperation. It is the G20’s job to ensure that globalisation benefits everyone. The aim is to strengthen the benefits of globalisation and worldwide interconnectedness, and to ensure that more people reap benefits. The German government is thus setting a course diametrically opposed to isolationism and any return to nationalism.


Chancellor: Stability of global economy is a “top issue:”

Germany is happy to assume the G20 Presidency as of December 1, 2016, and to host the G20 summit July 7-8, 2017, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in a video podcast on the German G20 Presidency. She cited the stability of the global economy as the “top issue.” The G20 finance ministers will be focusing on achieving progress on the stricter regulation of financial markets, especially in the field of shadow banking.

Germany attaches a great deal of importance to continuing with the major issues of its G7 Presidency, Angela Merkel continued. And a number of issues “related to development” will be given a very high profile, in particular fighting pandemics.


Agenda of Germany’s G20 Presidency with three main focuses

The German G20 agenda rests on three main pillars:

Ensuring stability
Improving viability for the future
Accepting responsibility

The G20 is the main forum for international cooperation among the 20 leading industrialized nations and emerging economies in the fields of finance and economics. The G20 nations are together home to almost two thirds of the world’s population, as well as generating more than four fifths of global GDP, and accounting for three quarters of global trade.
Ensuring stable and resilient national economies

The first pillar involves strengthening stable environments for the global economy and the financial system, but also promoting dynamic economic growth. Structural reforms are the lynchpin here.

Over and above this, Germany’s G20 Presidency will continue cooperation on international financial and fiscal issues, employment, and trade and investment. The aim is to strengthen free and fair trade around the globe. The German government will also be working for sustainable global supply chains.


Fit for the future:


During its G20 Presidency, Germany not only aims to ensure the stability of the global economy, but also, and this is the second pillar, to make it more fit for the future. One main concern is to make progress on realising the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.


It is every bit as important to discuss viable energy and climate strategies for the future. And the growing importance of digitalisation for the global economy will play a prominent part in the discussions of the G20. To be fit for the future will also mean improving health care. The worldwide fight against antimicrobial resistance is part of this, as are efforts to put in place the mechanisms to prevent the outbreak of pandemics.

And last but not least, empowering women in the economy, in particular improving the quality of women’s jobs, is on the agenda. Chancellor Merkel will be working to give women in developing countries easier access to information and communication technologies.


Accepting responsibility – especially for Africa:


Germany also intends to strengthen the G20 as a community of responsibility – and that is the third pillar. A priority concern is to achieve sustainable economic progress in Africa.

The German G20 Presidency aims to take concrete steps to improve people’s living conditions in the long term and to put in place a stable environment for investment. And it aims to promote infrastructure development on the African continent. In June a separate conference, entitled “Partnership with Africa,” will be held in Berlin.

But the G20 also aims to accept responsibility in other fields. Migration and refugee movements, the fight against terrorism, money laundering and corruption will also be addressed during Germany’s G20 Presidency.

Meetings of G20 ministers and dialogue with civil society

In the run up to the G20 summit, numerous line minister meetings will be held, in order to explore individual G20 issues in greater depth. Between January and May 2017, ministers responsible for finance, foreign affairs, labour affairs, health, agriculture and digital policy will be meeting.

As was the case during the G7 Presidency, Chancellor Merkel will again be meeting with representatives of civil society. Between March and June 2017, several dialogues are to take place, including events for the business community (Business20), non-governmental organizations (Civil20), trade unions (Labour20), the science and research community (Science20), think tanks (Think20), women (Women20) and youth (Youth20).

The civil society organizations themselves are responsible for these meetings, which will pick up on relevant G20 issues. With international partners they will be producing recommendations for the German G20 Presidency.

© Press and Information Office of the Federal Government

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Germany will be holding the presidency of the G20 in 2017. The summit of the heads of state and government and representatives of international organisations will be held in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July 2017. A number of G20 ministers’ conferences are scheduled to take place prior to this. The G20 Foreign Ministers will meet in Bonn on 16 and 17 February 2017. The summit and ministers’ meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss current international challenges and to raise awareness of new issues in international affairs.

Further information is available on the following webpages:

Information on this topic provided by the Federal Foreign Office
Official German G20 presidency website

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Foreign Policy was founded in the winter of 1970-71 by Samuel P. Huntington, professor of Harvard University, and his friend Warren Demian Manshel to give a voice to alternative views about American foreign policy at the time of the Vietnam War. Huntington hoped it would be “serious but not scholarly, lively but not glib.” In the Spring of 1978, after six years of close partnership, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace acquired full ownership of Foreign Policy. In 2000, a format change was implemented from a slim quarterly academic journal to a bi-monthly magazine. Also, it launched international editions in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

In September 2008, Foreign Policy was bought by The Washington Post Company (now Graham Holdings Company). In 2012, Foreign Policy grew to become the FP Group – an expansion of Foreign Policy magazine to include ForeignPolicy.com and FP Events.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

With a $1 million grant, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs jumpstarts solar-electricity small-vessels transportation in Tunisia for the benefit of the Middle East and North Africa.

UNDESA – 01-JANUARY 2017

Project for solar-powered vessels receives $1 million UN Energy Grant

A partnership working to promote solar-powered electric vessels in Tunisia and in the Middle East and North Africa was awarded the one million US dollars 2016 Energy Grant from UN DESA on 14 December 2016. The project “Solar Fueled Electric Maritime Mobility” by SINTEF, an independent non-profit research institute based in Norway, seeks to demonstrate the feasibility and the social, economic and environmental benefits of solar-fueled electric boat transport in Tunisia and the wider region.

SINTEF is implementing this demonstration project with the National Agency for Energy Conservation of Tunisia.

SINTEF will use the grant to develop technology for a traditional ferry or other vessel with a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain and to construct an electric charging point. It will help also support data collection and analysis. Selection of the vessel in Tunisia to be used for the demonstration will be decided in the first phase of the project.

The project aims to generate the data and evidence needed to replicate sustainable transport in the region. It seeks to demonstrate the benefits of low cost electric vessels as key transport between coastal cities in the region, with a view to encouraging other stakeholders to implement such transport on a larger scale. This would in turn benefit in particular the low and middle income parts of the population. The project will also contribute to the avoidance of transport related greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and it will help to prevent and reduce marine pollution.

Furthermore, the project will conduct capacity development workshops for Tunisian and other regional stakeholders, the preparation of a Tunisian Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) to be submitted to the UNFCCC portal, as well as public outreach activities to spread knowledge of this low-cost, sustainable transport solution.

SINTEF has extensive expertise in solar and wind energy, energy regulation and storage, grid integration of renewable energy, maritime transport and maritime technologies.

“The transport sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. It also has significant public health impacts,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the award ceremony. “The answer is not less transport – it is sustainable transport.
We need transport systems that are environmentally friendly, efficient, affordable, and accessible,” he said.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson said the “Powering the Future We Want” programme is a “creative initiative that promotes and funds innovative activities related to sustainable energy – an issue that goes to the heart of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” He added, “it is vital to our efforts to move towards a sustainable future that we establish transport systems that are smart, clean, affordable, and powered by clean energy.”

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo expressed deep gratitude to all of the finalists, the China Energy Fund Committee, the High-level Steering Committee and the Advisory Council of the Grant. “This Energy Grant is an excellent example of global partnership. Working together, we can make a difference. Today’s award bears vivid testimony to that success,” he said.

“We firmly believe that energy belongs to all of us, today and tomorrow. And each and every one of us has the duty to use energy sparingly, wisely and responsibly. By partnering with UN DESA in making this grant possible, the China Energy Fund Committee is sending out a most sincere message of collaboration and partnership to work together finding solutions for energy security by achieving energy sustainability for the entire humanity,” said Dr. Patrick Ho, Secretary-General of the China Energy Fund Committee.

The “Powering the Future We Want” initiative

The UN-DESA Energy Grant is a capacity building initiative launched and managed by UN DESA, in collaboration with the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong based NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC. Titled “Powering the Future We Want”, this initiative offers a grant in the amount of one million US dollars to fund capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development. The grant is awarded to an individual, institution or partnership based on past and current achievements in leadership and innovative practices in advancing energy for sustainable development. The 2016 cycle of the grant had as focus “Energy for Sustainable Transport”.

In 2016, the UN DESA Energy Grant received over 150 applications. The winner has been selected through a rigorous review and objective assessment of these applications, undertaken in multiple stages, guided by an Advisory Council and a High-level Steering Committee. A grant will be awarded annually from 2015 until 2019.

The eight finalists of the 2016 Grant Cycle, in alphabetical order: Ms. Fiza Farhan; GerWeiss Motors Corporation; KPIT Technologies Limited; Medellin Mayor’s Office- Mobility and Transit Department; Motor Development International SA (MDI SA); South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE); SINTEF; SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.

Winner of the US$1 million 2016 UN-DESA Energy Grant: SINTEF
The $1 million come from a China/Hong Kong based NGO.

For more information: UN-DESA Energy Grant.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Climate talks: ‘Save us’ from global warming, US urged.

By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent

BBC Science & Environment
19 November 2016

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told the conference that climate change was not a hoax
The next head of the UN global climate talks has appealed for the US to “save” Pacific islands from the impacts of global warming.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said that the islands needed the US now as much as they did during World War Two.

He was speaking as global climate talks in Marrakech came to an end.

Mr Bainimarama said that climate change was not a hoax, as US President-elect Donald Trump has claimed.

Mr Trump has promised to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement and scrap all payments for UN global warming projects.

But as he accepted the role of president of the Conference of the Parties for the year ahead, the Fijian leader took the opportunity to call on to the next US president to step away from his scepticism.
“I again appeal to the President-elect of the US Donald Trump to show leadership on this issue by abandoning his position that man-made climate change is a hoax,” said Mr Bainimarama.
“On the contrary, the global scientific consensus is that it is very real and we must act more decisively to avoid catastrophe.”


He also made a direct call to the American people to come to their aid in the face of rising seas, driven by global warming.
“We in the Pacific, in common with the whole world, look to America for the leadership and engagement and assistance on climate change just as we looked to America in the dark days of World War Two.
“I say to the American people, you came to save us then, and it is time for you to help save us now.”
After two weeks of talks here in Marrakech, participants arrived at a consensus on the next steps forward for the landmark climate treaty.

This gathering saw the opening of CMA1, the Conference of the Parties meeting as the signatories of the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rises.
CMA1 will be the formal UN body that will run, manage and set the rules for the operation of the Paris treaty.


UK joins the club

The number of countries who have ratified the agreement jumped above 100 with the UK joining during the last few days of the conference.
“Delegates in Marrakech made crucial progress in building the foundation to support the Paris agreement, which went into force just days before COP22,” said Paula Caballero from the World Resources Institute.

“Most importantly, negotiators agreed to finalise the rules of the Paris Agreement by 2018 and developed a clear roadmap to meet that deadline.”

US secretary of state John Kerry gave an impassioned speech in Marrakech, his last climate conference while in office

The participants also agreed the Marrakech Proclamation, a statement re-affirming the intentions of all 197 signatories to the Paris deal.

Seen as show of unity on the issue in the light a possible US withdrawal, countries stated they would live up to their promises to reduce emissions. The proclamation also called on all states to increase their carbon cutting ambitions, urgently.

Some of the poorest nations in the world announced that they were moving towards 100% green energy at this meeting.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum said that the 47 member countries, including Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Yemen, would achieve this goal between 2030 and 2050. And they challenged richer countries to do the same.

Despite these steps forward there were still some areas of significant difference between the parties, especially over money. The talks will continue in 2017 with a new US delegation picked by the Trump administration.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 28th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

PLEASE STUDY:  www.nytimes.com/2016/08/26/world/…

THIS IS A VERY LATE ARRIVAL – BUT CAN IT NOW CHANGE POLICY? WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA – IN HIS LAST 10 WEEKS IN OFFICE AFTER THE NOVEMBER 2016 ELECTIONS DO WHAT IT TAKES TO DECLARE US INDEPENDENCE OF MIDDLE EAST OIL?

This article tells us what we at SustainabiliTank knew for years – the oil money was used by the Saudi Royal family to export Wahhabism to the Islamic world. This Wahhabi indoctrination gave birth to the culture of terrorism that surfaced at the 9/11 attack against humanity. The US government – that is all US governments – to be exact – starting with President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt who in his 1945 meetings at Yalta and on the ship in Suez – traded away the future of the West for the barrels of oil of the Middle East

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THE NEW YORK TIMES – Front-page August 25,2016

Saudis and Extremism:
‘Both the Arsonists
and the Firefighters’

Critics see Saudi Arabia’s export of a rigid strain of Islam as contributing to
terrorism, but the kingdom’s influence depends greatly on local conditions.

By SCOTT SHANE August 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump do not agree on much, but Saudi Arabia may be an exception. She has deplored Saudi Arabia’s support for “radical schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path towards extremism.” He has called the Saudis “the world’s biggest funders of terrorism.”

The first American diplomat to serve as envoy to Muslim communities around the world visited 80 countries and concluded that the Saudi influence was destroying tolerant Islamic traditions. “If the Saudis do not cease what they are doing,”
the official, Farah Pandith, wrote last year, “there must be diplomatic, cultural and economic consequences.”

“If the Saudis do not
cease what they are
doing, there must be
diplomatic, cultural and
economic consequences.”
FARAH PANDITH, A STATE DEPARTMENT REPRESENTATIVE TO MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

“If there was going to be
an Islamic reformation in
the 20th century, the
Saudis probably prevented
it by pumping out literalism.”
THOMAS HEGGHAMMER, NORWEGIAN TERRORISM EXPERT

And hardly a week passes without a television pundit or a newspaper columnist blaming Saudi Arabia for jihadist violence.

On HBO, Bill Maher calls Saudi teachings “medieval,” adding an epithet. In The Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria writes that the Saudis have “created a monster in the world of Islam.”

The idea has become a commonplace: that Saudi Arabia’s export of the rigid, bigoted, patriarchal, fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism has fueled global extremism and contributed to terrorism. As the Islamic State projects its menacing calls for violence into the West, directing or inspiring terrorist attacks in country after country, an old debate over Saudi influence on Islam has taken on new relevance.

What Is Wahhabism?

The Islam taught in and by Saudi Arabia is often called Wahhabism, after the 18th-century cleric who founded it. A literalist, ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam, its adherents often denigrate other Islamic sects as well as Christians and Jews.

Is the world today a more divided, dangerous and violent place because of the cumulative effect of five decades of oil-financed proselytizing from the historical heart of the Muslim world? Or is Saudi Arabia, which has often supported Western-friendly autocrats over Islamists, merely a convenient scapegoat for extremism and terrorism with many complex causes — the United States’s own actions among them?

Those questions are deeply contentious, partly because of the contradictory impulses of the Saudi state.

In the realm of extremist Islam, the Saudis are “both the arsonists and the firefighters,” said William McCants, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They promote a very toxic form of Islam that draws sharp lines between a small number of true believers and everyone else, Muslim and non-Muslim,” he said, providing ideological fodder for violent jihadists.

Yet at the same time, “they’re our partners in counterterrorism,” said Mr. McCants, one of three dozen academics, government officials and experts on Islam from multiple countries interviewed for this article.


Conflicting Goals

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

Thomas Hegghammer, a Norwegian terrorism expert who has advised the United States government, said the most important effect of Saudi proselytizing might have been to slow the evolution of Islam, blocking its natural accommodation to a diverse and globalized world. “If there was going to be an Islamic reformation in the 20th century, the Saudis probably prevented it by pumping out literalism,” he said.

The reach of the Saudis has been stunning, touching nearly every country with a Muslim population, from the Gothenburg Mosque in Sweden to the King Faisal Mosque in Chad, from the King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles to the Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea. Support has come from the Saudi government; the royal family; Saudi charities; and Saudi-sponsored organizations including the World Muslim League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization, providing the hardware of impressive edifices and the software of preaching and teaching.

There is a broad consensus that the Saudi ideological juggernaut has disrupted local Islamic traditions in dozens of countries — the result of lavish spending on religious outreach for half a century, estimated in the tens of billions of dollars. The result has been amplified by guest workers, many from South Asia, who spend years in Saudi Arabia and bring Saudi ways home with them. In many countries, Wahhabist preaching has encouraged a harshly judgmental religion, contributing to majority support in some polls in Egypt, Pakistan and other countries for stoning for adultery and execution for anyone trying to leave Islam.

But exactly how Saudi influence plays out seems to depend greatly on local conditions. In parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, for instance, Saudi teachings have shifted the religious culture in a markedly conservative direction, most visibly in the decision of more women to cover their hair or of men to grow beards. Among Muslim immigrant communities in Europe, the Saudi influence seems to be just one factor driving radicalization, and not the most significant. In divided countries like Pakistan and Nigeria, the flood of Saudi money, and the ideology it promotes, have exacerbated divisions over religion that regularly prove lethal.

For minorities in many countries, the exclusionary Saudi version of Sunni Islam, with its denigration of Jews and Christians, as well as of Muslims of Shiite, Sufi and other traditions, may have made some people vulnerable to the lure of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups. “There’s only so much dehumanizing of the other that you can be exposed to — and exposed to as the word of God — without becoming susceptible to recruitment,” said David Andrew Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington who tracks Saudi influence.

Exhibit A may be Saudi Arabia itself, which produced not only Osama bin Laden, but also 15 of the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001; sent more suicide bombers than any other country to Iraq after the 2003 invasion; and has supplied more foreign fighters to the Islamic State, 2,500, than any country other than Tunisia.

Mehmet Gormez, the senior Islamic cleric in Turkey, said that while he was meeting with Saudi clerics in Riyadh in January, the Saudi authorities had executed 47 people in a single day on terrorism charges, 45 of them Saudi citizens. “I said: ‘These people studied Islam for 10 or 15 years in your country. Is there a problem with the educational system?’ ” Mr. Gormez said in an interview. He argued that Wahhabi teaching was undermining the pluralism, tolerance and openness to science and learning that had long characterized Islam. “Sadly,” he said, the changes have taken place “in almost all of the Islamic world.”

In a huge embarrassment to the Saudi authorities, the Islamic State adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools until the extremist group could publish its own books in 2015. Out of 12 works by Muslim scholars republished by the Islamic State, seven are by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century founder of the Saudi school of Islam, said Jacob Olidort, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Adil al-Kalbani declared with regret in a television interview in January that the Islamic State leaders “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.”

Small details of Saudi practice can cause outsize trouble. For at least two decades, the kingdom has distributed an English translation of the Quran that in the first surah, or chapter, adds parenthetical references to Jews and Christians in addressing Allah: “those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University and the editor in chief of the new Study Quran, an annotated English version, said the additions were “a complete heresy, with no basis in Islamic tradition.”

Accordingly, many American officials who have worked to counter extremism and terrorism have formed a dark view of the Saudi effect — even if, given the sensitivity of the relationship, they are often loath to discuss it publicly. The United States’ reliance on Saudi counterterrorism cooperation in recent years — for instance, the Saudi tip that foiled a 2010 Qaeda plot to blow up two American cargo planes — has often taken precedence over concerns about radical influence. And generous Saudi funding for professorships and research centers at American universities, including the most elite institutions, has deterred criticism and discouraged research on the effects of Wahhabi proselytizing, according to Mr. McCants — who is working on a book about the Saudi impact on global Islam — and other scholars.

One American former official who has begun to speak out is Ms. Pandith, the State Department’s first special representative to Muslim communities worldwide. From 2009 to 2014, she visited Muslims in 80 countries and concluded that Saudi influence was pernicious and universal. “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence,” she wrote in The New York Times last year. She said the United States should “disrupt the training of extremist imams,” “reject free Saudi textbooks and translations that are filled with hate,” and “prevent the Saudis from demolishing local Muslim religious and cultural sites that are evidence of the diversity of Islam.”

Yet some scholars on Islam and extremism, including experts on radicalization in many countries, push back against the notion that Saudi Arabia bears predominant responsibility for the current wave of extremism and jihadist violence. They point to multiple sources for the rise and spread of Islamist terrorism, including repressive secular governments in the Middle East, local injustices and divisions, the hijacking of the internet for terrorist propaganda, and American interventions in the Muslim world from the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq. The 20th-century ideologues most influential with modern jihadists, like Sayyid Qutb of Egypt and Abul Ala Maududi of Pakistan, reached their extreme, anti-Western views without much Saudi input. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State despise Saudi rulers, whom they consider the worst of hypocrites.

“Americans like to have someone to blame — a person, a political party or country,” said Robert S. Ford, a former United States ambassador to Syria and Algeria. “But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d be careful about blaming the Saudis.”

While Saudi religious influence may be disruptive, he and others say, its effect is not monolithic. A major tenet of official Saudi Islamic teaching is obedience to rulers — hardly a precept that encourages terrorism intended to break nations. Many Saudi and Saudi-trained clerics are quietist, characterized by a devotion to scripture and prayer and a shunning of politics, let alone political violence.

And especially since 2003, when Qaeda attacks in the kingdom awoke the monarchy to the danger it faced from militancy, Saudi Arabia has acted more aggressively to curtail preachers who call for violence, cut off terrorist financing and cooperate with Western intelligence to foil terrorist plots. From 2004 to 2012, 3,500 imams were fired for refusing to renounce extremist views, and another 20,000 went through retraining, according to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs — though the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed skepticism that the training was really “instilling tolerance.”

An American scholar with long experience in Saudi Arabia — who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve his ability to travel to the kingdom for research — said he believed that Saudi influence had often been exaggerated in American political discourse. But he compared it to climate change. Just as a one-degree increase in temperature can ultimately result in drastic effects around the globe, with glaciers melting and species dying off, so Saudi teaching is playing out in many countries in ways that are hard to predict and difficult to trace but often profound, the scholar said.

Saudi proselytizing can result in a “recalibrating of the religious center of gravity” for young people, the scholar said, which makes it “easier for them to swallow or make sense of the ISIS religious narrative when it does arrive. It doesn’t seem quite as foreign as it might have, had that Saudi religious influence not been there.”


Centuries-Old Dilemma

Why does Saudi Arabia find it so difficult to let go of an ideology that much of the world finds repugnant? The key to the Saudi dilemma dates back nearly three centuries to the origin of the alliance that still undergirds the Saudi state. In 1744, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a reformist cleric, sought the protection of Muhammad bin Saud, a powerful tribal leader in the harsh desert of the Arabian Peninsula. The alliance was mutually beneficial: Wahhab received military protection for his movement, which sought to return Muslims to what he believed were the values of the early years of Islam in the seventh century, when the Prophet Muhammad was alive. (His beliefs were a variant of Salafism, the conservative school of Islam that teaches that the salaf, or pious ancestors, had the correct ways and beliefs and should be emulated.) In return, the Saud family earned the endorsement of an Islamic cleric — a puritanical enforcer known for insisting on the death by stoning of a woman for adultery.

Wahhab’s particular version of Islam was the first of two historical accidents that would define Saudi religious influence centuries later. What came to be known as Wahhabism was “a tribal, desert Islam,” said Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. It was shaped by the austere environment — xenophobic, fiercely opposed to shrines and tombs, disapproving of art and music, and hugely different from the cosmopolitan Islam of diverse trading cities like Baghdad and Cairo.

The second historical accident came in 1938, when American prospectors discovered the largest oil reserves on earth in Saudi Arabia. Oil revenue generated by the Arabian-American Oil Company, or Aramco, created fabulous wealth. But it also froze in place a rigid social and economic system and gave the conservative religious establishment an extravagant budget for the export of its severe strain of Islam.

“One day you find oil, and the world is coming to you,” Professor Ahmed said. “God has given you the ability to take your version of Islam to the world.”

In 1964, when King Faisal ascended the throne, he embraced the obligation of spreading Islam. A modernizer in many respects, with close ties to the West, he nonetheless could not overhaul the Wahhabi doctrine that became the face of Saudi generosity in many countries. Over the next four decades, in non-Muslim-majority countries alone, Saudi Arabia would build 1,359 mosques, 210 Islamic centers, 202 colleges and 2,000 schools. Saudi money helped finance 16 American mosques; four in Canada; and others in London, Madrid, Brussels and Geneva, according to a report in an official Saudi weekly, Ain al-Yaqeen. The total spending, including supplying or training imams and teachers, was “many billions” of Saudi riyals (at a rate of about four to a dollar), the report said.

Saudi religious teaching had particular force because it came from the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the land of Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina. When Saudi imams arrived in Muslim countries in Asia or Africa, or in Muslim communities in Europe or the Americas, wearing traditional Arabian robes, speaking the language of the Quran — and carrying a generous checkbook — they had automatic credibility.

As the 20th century progressed and people of different nationalities and faiths mixed routinely, the puritanical, exclusionary nature of Wahhab’s teachings would become more and more dysfunctional. But the Saudi government would find it extraordinarily difficult to shed or soften its ideology, especially after the landmark year of 1979.

In Tehran that year, the Iranian revolution brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. The declaration of an Islamic Republic escalated the competition between the two major branches of Islam, spurring the Saudis to redouble their efforts to counter Iran and spread Wahhabism around the world.

Then, in a stunning strike, a band of 500 Saudi extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks, publicly calling Saudi rulers puppets of the West and traitors to true Islam. The rebels were defeated, but leading clerics agreed to back the government only after assurances of support for a crackdown on immodest ways in the kingdom and a more aggressive export of Wahhabism abroad.

Finally, at year’s end, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and seized power to prop up a Communist government. It soon faced an insurgent movement of mujahedeen, or holy warriors battling for Islam, which drew fighters from around the world for a decade-long battle to expel the occupiers.

Throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to finance the mujahedeen in this great Afghan war, which would revive the notion of noble armed jihad for Muslims worldwide. President Ronald Reagan famously welcomed to the Oval Office a delegation of bearded “Afghan freedom fighters” whose social and theological views were hardly distinguishable from those later embraced by the Taliban.

Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to support the mujahedeen, the Afghan fighters whose representatives met President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office in 1983, in their fight against the Soviet occupation.

In fact, the United States spent $50 million from 1986 to 1992 on what was called a “jihad literacy” project — printing books for Afghan children and adults to encourage violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops. A first-grade language textbook for Pashto speakers, for example, according to a study by Dana Burde, an associate professor at New York University, used “Mujahid,” or fighter of jihad, as the illustration: “My brother is a Mujahid. Afghan Muslims are Mujahedeen. I do jihad together with them. Doing jihad against infidels is our duty.”


Pressure After 9/11


One day in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Robert W. Jordan, the United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was driving in the kingdom with the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan. The prince pointed to a mosque and said, “I just fired the imam there.” The man’s preaching had been too militant, he said.

Mr. Jordan, a Texas lawyer, said that after the Qaeda attacks, he had stepped up pressure on the Saudi government over its spread of extremism. “I told them: ‘What you teach in your schools and preach in your mosques now is not an internal matter. It affects our national security,’” he said.

After years of encouraging and financing a harsh Islam in support of the anti-Soviet jihad, the United States had reversed course — gradually during the 1990s and then dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks. But in pressuring Saudi Arabia, American officials would tread lightly, acutely aware of American dependence on Saudi oil and intelligence cooperation. Saudi reform would move at an excruciatingly slow pace.

Document: State Dept. Study on Saudi Textbooks
Twelve years after Sept. 11, after years of quiet American complaints about Saudi teachings, a State Department contractor, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, completed a study of official Saudi textbooks. It reported some progress in cutting back on bigoted and violent content but found that plenty of objectionable material remained. Officials never released the 2013 study, for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act.

Seventh graders were being taught that “fighting the infidels to elevate the words of Allah” was among the deeds Allah loved the most, the report found, among dozens of passages it found troubling. Tenth graders learned that Muslims who abandoned Islam should be jailed for three days and, if they did not change their minds, “killed for walking away from their true religion.” Fourth graders read that non-Muslims had been “shown the truth but abandoned it, like the Jews,” or had replaced truth with “ignorance and delusion, like the Christians.”

Some of the books, prepared and distributed by the government, propagated views that were hostile to science, modernity and women’s rights, not to say downright quirky — advocating, for instance, execution for sorcerers and warning against the dangers of the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. (The groups’ intent, said a 10th-grade textbook, “is to achieve the goals of the Zionist movement.”)

The textbooks, or other Saudi teaching materials with similar content, had been distributed in scores of countries, the study found. Textbook reform has continued since the 2013 study, and Saudi officials say they are trying to replace older books distributed overseas.

Excerpts from Saudi textbooks with critical comments from a 2013 study, commissioned by the State Department, that was never released for fear of angering the Saudis. The New York Times obtained the study under the Freedom of Information Act.
But as the study noted, the schoolbooks were only a modest part of the Saudis’ lavishly funded global export of Wahhabism. In many places, the study said, the largess includes “a Saudi-funded school with a Wahhabist faculty (educated in a Saudi-funded Wahhabist University), attached to a mosque with a Wahhabist imam, and ultimately controlled by an international Wahhabist educational body.”

This ideological steamroller has landed in diverse places where Muslims of different sects had spent centuries learning to accommodate one another. Sayyed Shah, a Pakistani journalist working on a doctorate in the United States, described the devastating effect on his town, not far from the Afghan border, of the arrival some years ago of a young Pakistani preacher trained in a Saudi-funded seminary.

Village residents had long held a mélange of Muslim beliefs, he said. “We were Sunni, but our culture, our traditions were a mixture of Shia and Barelvi and Deobandi,” Mr. Shah said, referring to Muslim sects. His family would visit the large Barelvi shrine, and watch their Shiite neighbors as they lashed themselves in a public religious ritual. “We wouldn’t do that ourselves, but we’d hand out sweets and water,” he said.

The new preacher, he said, denounced the Barelvi and Shiite beliefs as false and heretical, dividing the community and setting off years of bitter argument. By 2010, Mr. Shah said, “everything had changed.” Women who had used shawls to cover their hair and face began wearing full burqas. Militants began attacking kiosks where merchants sold secular music CDs. Twice, terrorists used explosives to try to destroy the village’s locally famous shrine.

“One day you find oil,
and the world is coming
to you. God has given you
the ability to take your
version of Islam to the world.”
AKBAR AHMED, CHAIRMAN OF ISLAMIC STUDIES AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
Now, Mr. Shah said, families are divided; his cousin, he said, “just wants Saudi religion.” He said an entire generation had been “indoctrinated” with a rigid, unforgiving creed.

“It’s so difficult these days,” he said. “Initially we were on a single path. We just had economic problems, but we were culturally sound.”

He added, “But now it’s very difficult, because some people want Saudi culture to be our culture, and others are opposing that.”

C. Christine Fair, a specialist on Pakistan at Georgetown University, said Mr. Shah’s account was credible. But like many scholars describing the Saudi impact on religion, she said that militancy in Pakistan also had local causes. While Saudi money and teaching have unquestionably been “accelerants,” Pakistan’s sectarian troubles and jihadist violence have deep roots dating to the country’s origins in the partition of India in 1947.

“The idea that without the Saudis Pakistan would be Switzerland is ridiculous,” she said.


Elusive Saudi Links

That is the disputed question, of course: how the world would be different without decades of Saudi-funded shaping of Islam. Though there is a widespread belief that Saudi influence has contributed to the growth of terrorism, it is rare to find a direct case of cause and effect. For example, in Brussels, the Grand Mosque was built with Saudi money and staffed with Saudi imams. In 2012, according to Saudi diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, one Saudi preacher was removed after Belgian complaints that he was a “true Salafi” who did not accept other schools of Islam. And Brussels’ immigrant neighborhoods, notably Molenbeek, have long been the home of storefront mosques teaching hard-line Salafi views.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November and in Brussels in March were tied to an Islamic State cell in Belgium, the Saudi history was the subject of several news media reports. Yet it was difficult to find any direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital.

Several suspects had petty criminal backgrounds; their knowledge of Islam was described by friends as superficial; they did not appear to be regulars at any mosque. Though the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blasts, resentment of the treatment of North African immigrant families in Belgium and exposure to Islamic State propaganda, in person or via the internet and social media, appeared to be the major factors motivating the attacks.

If there was a Saudi connection, it was highly indirect, perhaps playing out over a generation or longer. Hind Fraihi, a Moroccan-Belgian journalist who went underground in the Brussels immigrant neighborhood of Molenbeek in 2005 and wrote a book about it, met Saudi-trained imams and found lots of extremist literature written in Saudi Arabia that encouraged “polarization, the sentiment of us against them, the glorification of jihad.”

The recent attackers, Ms. Fraihi said, were motivated by “lots of factors — economic frustration, racism, a generation that feels it has no future.” But Saudi teaching, she said, “is part of the cocktail.”

Without the Saudi presence over the decades, might a more progressive and accommodating Islam, reflecting immigrants’ Moroccan roots, have taken hold in Brussels? Would young Muslims raised in Belgium have been less susceptible to the stark, violent call of the Islamic State? Conceivably, but the case is impossible to prove.

Or consider an utterly different cultural milieu — the world’s most populous Muslim country, Indonesia. The Saudis have sent money for mosque-building, books and teachers for decades, said Sidney Jones, the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

“Over time,” said Ms. Jones, who has visited or lived in Indonesia since the 1970s, the Saudi influence “has contributed to a more conservative, more intolerant atmosphere.” (President Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a boy, has remarked on the same phenomenon.) She said she believed money from private Saudi donors and foundations was behind campaigns in Indonesia against Shiite and Ahmadi Islam, considered heretical by Wahhabi teaching. Some well-known Indonesian religious vigilantes are Saudi-educated, she said.

But when Ms. Jones studied the approximately 1,000 people arrested in Indonesia on terrorism charges since 2002, she found only a few — “literally four or five” — with ties to Wahhabi or Salafi institutions. When it comes to violence, she concluded, the Saudi connection is “mostly a red herring.”

In fact, she said, there is a gulf between Indonesian jihadists and Indonesian Salafis who look to Saudi or Yemeni scholars for guidance. The jihadists accuse the Salafis of failing to act on their convictions; the Salafis scorn the jihadists as extremists.

Whatever the global effects of decades of Saudi proselytizing, it is under greater scrutiny than ever, from outside and inside the kingdom. Saudi leaders’ ideological reform efforts, encompassing textbooks and preaching, amount to a tacit recognition that its religious exports have sometimes backfired. And the kingdom has stepped up an aggressive public relations campaign in the West, hiring American publicists to counter critical news media reports and fashion a reformist image for Saudi leaders.

But neither the publicists nor their clients can renounce the strain of Islam on which the Saudi state was built, and old habits sometimes prove difficult to suppress. A prominent cleric, Saad bin Nasser al-Shethri, had been stripped of a leadership position by the previous king, Abdullah, for condemning coeducation. King Salman restored Mr. Shethri to the job last year, not long after the cleric had joined the chorus of official voices criticizing the Islamic State. But Mr. Shethri’s reasoning for denouncing the Islamic State suggested the difficulty of change. The group was, he said, “more infidel than Jews and Christians.”

—————————————–

Photo: The Seoul Central Mosque in South Korea, one of hundreds of mosques around the world built using Saudi donations. Credit Choi Won-Suk/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: The King Fahad Mosque in Los Angeles. Credit Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

Photo: The United States spent millions printing textbooks for Afghan children and adults that encouraged violence against non-Muslim “infidels” like Soviet troops, as in this excerpt from a book for Pashto-speaking first graders. Credit From Dana Burde, Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan

Photo: The Iranian revolution in early 1979 brought to power a radical Shiite government, symbolically challenging Saudi Arabia, the leader of Sunnism, for leadership of global Islam. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Photo: A wounded man at the airport in Brussels after an attack by jihadists in March. There appears to be no direct link between the bombers and the Saudi legacy in the Belgian capital. Credit Ketevan Kardava/Associated Press

Photo: During his reign from 1964 to 1975, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, pictured here in May 1968, embraced the duty of spreading Islam around the world. Credit Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos

Photo: Members of the Saudi security services inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in May 2015 targeting Shiite Saudis attending Friday Prayer at a mosque in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

Photo: Saudi oil fields developed by Aramco, the Arabian-American Oil Company, as seen in this 1951 photograph, provided generous funding for the export of the Saudi version of Islam. Credit Associated Press

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Secrets of the Kingdom

A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.JUL. 11, 2016

A Saudi Imam, 2 Hijackers and Lingering 9/11 Mystery JUNE 18, 2016

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS MAY 22, 2016

ISIS Turns Saudis Against the Kingdom, and Families Against Their Own APRIL 1, 2016

Quiet Support for Saudis Entangles U.S. in Yemen MARCH 14, 2016

U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels JAN. 24, 2016

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Follow Scott Shane on Twitter @ScottShaneNYT.

Hala Droubi contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A version of this article appears in print on August 26, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Both Arsonists and Firefighters’. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


How Madonna and Hillary Clinton Betray Muslim Women

by Phyllis Chesler
The New York Post
April 6, 2016

 www.meforum.org/5946/western-wome…


Edited version of an article originally published under the title “By Covering Up Too Much, Western Women Betray Their Muslim-World Sisters.”

Many American celebrities (clockwise, from upper left: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Khloe Kardashian, and Rihanna) simulate the oppression of Muslim women as a fashion statement.

The stewardesses of Air France are outraged and have just refused to don headscarves when they fly into Tehran, as the mullahs have demanded.

Viva La France!

The French stewardesses have more dignity, more sobriety, and more self-respect than many American and European women do, beginning with trendsetting celebrities, female diplomats and first ladies, who have all donned headscarves (hijab), face masks (niqab), or full burqas when visiting Muslim countries, or as carefree fashion statements.

For example, Madonna, three Kardashian sisters, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and Nicole Richie have all recently posted photos of themselves in Islamic “drag,” either on visits to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Morocco or just because it suited their fancy. They’re posed wearing filmy, long scarves (Katy Perry), heavy black hijab (Kylie Kardashian, Rihanna), niqab or face masks (Madonna), heavy hijab plus abayas (Gomez) and almost full burqas (Kim and Khloe Kardashian).

Such female celebrities may influence Western girls more than female Western political leaders can. They don’t understand that they are “slumming;” they can remove their exotic Islamic garb and pose naked whenever they choose to do so. This isn’t possible for Muslim girls and women who are forced to wear the Islamic veil (headscarf, face mask, or full head, face, and body covering) and who risk death when they resist.

A female U.S. Navy sailor was forced to where the hijab while detained in Iran with her shipmates in January.

Being forced to adopt a colonizing custom that subordinates women; being forced to “pretend” that one is a Muslim when that isn’t the case; and being made to feel shameful, shameless, if one is naked-faced are acts of psychological warfare.

Remember the sole female Navy sailor who was forced to don hijab on board while Iran held American sailors in captivity? It was an outrage, and reminiscent of how Barbary pirates once treated their captured Christian female slaves.

Why, then, are female non-Muslim Western leaders sometimes willing to comply?

Daniel Pipes has been keeping a careful list of such compliant Westerners. For example, in 1996, Britain’s Princess Diana donned a headscarf when she visited Pakistan; in 1997, First Lady Hillary and Chelsea Clinton both donned hijab on a visit with Yasser Arafat; in 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wore one on a state visit to Tajikistan; in 2007, journalist Diana Sawyer did as well when she interviewed Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; also in 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wore a headscarf on a visit to Damascus, Syria; and in 2007, First Lady Laura Bush wore hijab on a state visit in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, a high-ranking UN official on climate change, Christiana Figueres, donned hijab on a visit to Qatar. In 2015, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wore hijab on a state visit to Iran; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wore hijab on a state visit to Pakistan.

Some of these same American and European Christian leaders have chosen not to wear a hijab at other times. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their decisions. In 2008, Rice and Bush did not wear the headscarf in Saudi Arabia; in 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a bare-headed visit to Saudi Arabia; in 2012, Clinton wore no hijab when she visited Saudi Arabia. When Obama attended the late Saudi King’s funeral, his wife wore no hijab.

If you’re representing America, it’s fine to find ways to respect the customs of the country you are visiting. But please note: American male diplomats don’t wear traditional Saudi male attire — the bisht or thobe, the keffiya and the ayal.

The Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks.

Modesty is a legitimate concern. So it’s important to understand that the Quran doesn’t command that women wear body bags or face masks. Like men, women are commanded to dress “modestly” and to “cover their breasts.” While Muslim countries do have a long history of face- and body-veiling women, they also have a hundred-year history of naked-faced Muslim women who fought for their rights or whose kings granted them the right to feel the sun on their faces, make eye contact with their students and teachers, perform surgery, sit in parliaments, etc.

When is the last time you have seen large numbers of Muslim women in the 21st century (wives of Muslim leaders, female Muslim leaders, immigrants, citizens) in the West going bare-headed and naked-faced? They certainly exist and, if they’re lucky, their families are also westernized.

But some very brave westernized Muslim girls and women have also paid a high price for their decision to dress Western-style. They’ve been threatened with death, battered, imprisoned at home, rushed into forced marriages, escorted to and from school — and have been the victims of honor killings.

As long as women are forced to wear face masks and burqas, or even to wear the heavy hijab, it renders naked-faced women vulnerable, both in Muslim lands and in the West. Remember the large number of Western women who were assaulted, groped and raped by male Muslim mobs earlier this year all over Europe?

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Phyllis Chesler, a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum, is an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and the author of sixteen books.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 7th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Uri Avnery
April 2, 2016

Under the Lime Trees

ONE OF the most famous lines in German poetry is “Don’t greet me under the lime trees.”

The Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine asks his sweetheart not to embarass him in public by greeting him in the main street of Berlin, which is called “Unter den Linden” (“Under the Lime Trees”).

Israel is in the position of this illicit sweetheart. Arab countries are having an affair with her, but don’t want to be seen with her in public.

Too embarrassing.

THE MAIN Arab country in question is Saudi Arabia. For some time now, the oil kingdom has been a secret ally of Israel, and vice versa.

In politics, national interests often trump ideological differences. This is so in this case.

The area referred to by Westerners as the “Middle East” is now polarized into two camps, led respectively by Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The northern arc consists of Shiite Iran, present-day Iraq with its Shiite majority, the main Syrian territory controlled by the Alawite (close to Shiite) community and Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Southern bloc, led by Sunni Saudi Arabia, consists of the Sunni states of Egypt and the Gulf principalities. In a shadowy way, they are connected with the Sunni Islamic Caliphate, a.k.a. Daesh or Isis, which has lodged itself between Syria and Iraq. Except for Egypt, which is as poor as a mosque mouse, they are all stinking rich with oil.

The northern arc is supported by Russia, which just now has given the Assad family in Syria a massive military boost. The southern bloc has been supported until recently by the US and its allies.

THIS IS an orderly picture, as it should be. People around the world don’t like complicated situations, especially if they make it difficult to distinguish between friends and enemies.

Take Turkey. Turkey is a Sunnite country, formerly secular but now ruled by a religious party. So it is logical that it quietly supports Daesh.
Turkey also fights against the Syrian Kurds, which fight against Daesh, and who are allied with the Kurdish minority in Turkey, which is considered by the Turkish government as a deadly menace.

(The Kurds are a separate people, neither Arab nor Turkish, who are divided between Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, and generally unable to unite. They are mostly Sunnis.)

The US is fighting against Assad’s Syria, which is supported by Russia. But the US is also fighting against Daesh, which is fighting against Assad’s Syria. The Syrian Kurds are fighting against Daesh, but also against Assad’s forces. The Lebanese Hezbollah strongly supports Syria, a traditional enemy of Lebanon, and keeps the Assad regime alive, while fighting against Daesh, side by side with the US, a deadly enemy of Hezbollah. Iran supports Assad and fights against Daesh, side by side with the US, Hezbollah and the Syrian Kurds.

Can’t make sense of this? You are not alone.

Recently the US has changed its orientation. Until then, the picture was clear. The US needed the Saudi oil, as cheaply as the King could supply it. It also hated Iran, since the Shiite Islamists threw out the Iranian Shah of Shahs, an American stooge. The Islamists captured the American diplomats in Tehran and held them as hostages. To get them out, the US provided the Iranian army with weapons, via Israel (this was called Irangate). Iran was at war with Iraq, which was under the Sunni dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The Americans supported Saddam against Iran, but later invaded Iraq, hanged him and effectively turned Iraq over to Iran, their deadly enemy.

Now the US is having second thoughts (if all this mess has much to do with “thoughts”). Its traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran does not look so attractive anymore. The US dependence on Arabian oil is not so strong as it was. Suddenly the Saudi religious tyranny does not look so much more attractive than the Iranian religious democracy and its beckoning market. After all, against the 20 million native Saudis there are 80 million Iranians.

So now we have a US-Iranian agreement. Western sanctions on Iran are being lifted. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship, threatening to leave the multitudes of Saudi princes seething with anger and shaking with fear.

WHERE is Israel in this mess? Well, it’s a part of the mess.

When Israel was established in the middle of a war with the Arabs, the government favored something called “the alliance of minorities”. This meant cooperation with all the peripheral factors in the region: the Maronites in Lebanon (the Shiites were disdained and ignored), the Alawites in Syria, the Kurds in Iraq, the Copts in Egypt, the rulers of Iran, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Chad, and so on.

There were indeed some loose connections with the Maronites. The Shah’s Iran became a close if half-secret ally. Israel helped the Shah to build his secret police, and the Shah allowed Israeli officers to pass through his territory in order to join and instruct the Kurdish rebels in North Iraq – until, alas, the Shah made a deal with Saddam Hussein. The Shah also became a partner in the oil pipeline that brought Persian oil from Eilat to Ashkelon, instead of going through the Suez Canal. (I once spent a day building that line, which is still a joint Israel-Iranian venture, subject to arbitration.)

Now the situation is quite different. The Shiite-Sunni divide (about the succession of the prophet Muhammad), which has been slumbering for many generations, has come to the fore again, serving, of course, very mundane worldly interests.

For Saudis, their competition with Iran for hegemony in the Muslim world is vastly more important than the old fight with Israel. Indeed, years ago the Saudis published a peace plan that resembles the plans put forward by Israeli peace forces (including my own). It was accepted by the Arab league but rejected by Sharon’s government and then totally ignored by successive Israeli governments.

Binyamin Netanyahu’s advisers boast that never has the geopolitical situation of Israel been better than it is now. The Arabs are busy with their quarrels. Many Arab countries want to strengthen their secret ties with Israel.

The ties with Egypt are not even secret. The Egyptian military dictator openly cooperates with Israel in strangling the Gaza Strip with its close to two million Palestinian inhabitants. The Strip is ruled by Hamas, a movement that the Egyptian government claims is connected with its enemy, Daesh.

Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, is close to having open relations with us. Israel’s political or economic ties with India, China and Russia are good and growing.

Tiny Israel is considered a military giant, a technological power, a stable democracy (at least for its Jewish citizens). Enemies like the BDS movement are mere irritations. So what’s bad?

THIS IS where we return to the lime trees. None of our secret Arab friends want us greet them openly. Egypt, with which we have an official peace treaty, does not welcome Israeli tourists anymore. They are advised not to go there.

Saudi Arabia and its allies do not want any open and formal relations with Israel. On the contrary, they continue to speak about Israel as during the worst stages of Arab rejectionism.

They all quote the same reason: the oppression of the Palestinian people. They all say the same: official relations with Israel will come only after the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The masses of the Arab peoples everywhere are far too emotionally involved with the plight of the Palestinians to tolerate official connections between their rulers and Israel.

These rulers all embrace the same conditions, which were put forward by Yasser Arafat and included in the Saudi peace plan: a free Palestinian state side by side with Israel, mutually agreed borders based on the June 1967 lines with minor exchanges of territory, an “agreed” return of the refugees (“agreed” with Israel, meaning at most a symbolic return of a very limited number).

Israeli governments have never responded to this plan. Today, under Binyamin Netanyahu, they are further from these peace conditions than ever. Almost every day our government enacts laws, enlarges settlements, takes measures and makes declarations that push Israel further away from any peace that Arab countries could accept.

FUTURE GENERATIONS will look at this situation with wonderment.

Since the foundation of the Zionist movement, and most certainly since the creation of the State of Israel, Israelis have dreamed of overcoming Arab resistance and inducing the Arab world to accept the “Jewish and democratic” State of Israel as a legitimate member of the region.

Now this opportunity is presenting itself. It can be done. Israel is invited to the Arab table. And Israel ignores the opportunity.

Not because Israel is blind, but because the occupied Palestinian territories and more settlements are more important to them than the historic act of making peace.

That is why no one wants us to greet them under the lime trees.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”

The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.

A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.

Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”

Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.

So what now?

My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.

Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.

The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.

And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 21st, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


ISIS Is Not the Main Problem in the Middle East

by Jonathan Spyer
PJ Media and the Middle East Forum
January 19, 2016

 www.meforum.org/5801/isis-is-not-…

On a recent reporting trip to Iraq and northern Syria, two things were made apparent to me — one of them relatively encouraging, the other far less so. The encouraging news is that ISIS is currently in a state of retreat. Not headlong rout, but contraction.

The bad news? Our single-minded focus on ISIS as if it were the main or sole source of regional dysfunction is the result of faulty analysis, which in turn is producing flawed policy.

Regarding the first issue, 2015 was not a particularly good year for ISIS. In the course of it, the jihadis lost Kobani and then a large area to its east, bringing the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG and their allies to within 30 km of the Caliphate’s “capital” in Raqqa city.

In late December, the jihadis lost the last bridge over the Euphrates that they controlled, at the Tishreen Dam. This matters because it isolates Raqqa, making it difficult for the Islamic State to rush reinforcements from Aleppo province to the city in the event of an attack. Similarly, the Kurdish YPG advanced south of the town of al-Hawl to Raqqa’s east.

In Iraq, the Iraqi Shia militias and government forces have now recaptured Ramadi city (lost earlier in 2015) following the expulsion of ISIS from Tikrit and Baiji. The Kurdish Pesh Merga, meanwhile, have revenged the humiliation they suffered at the hands of ISIS in the summer of 2014. The Kurds have now driven the jihadis back across the plain between Erbil and Mosul, bringing them to the banks of the Tigris river. They have also liberated the town of Sinjar.

The city of Mosul nestles on the western side of the river. It remains ISIS’s most substantial conquest. Its recapture does not appear immediately imminent, yet the general trend has been clear. The main slogan of ISIS is “Baqiya wa’tatamaddad,” “Remaining and Expanding.” At the present time, however, the Islamic State may be said to be remaining, but retreating.

This situation is reflected in the confidence of the fighters facing ISIS along the long front line. In interviews as I traversed the lines, I heard the same details again and again regarding changing ISIS tactics, all clearly designed to preserve manpower.

This stalling of the Islamic State is the background to its turn towards international terror, which was also a notable element of the latter half of 2015. The downing of the Russian airliner in October, the events in Paris in November, and the series of suicide bombings in Turkey since July attest to a need that the Islamic State has for achievement and for action. They need to keep the flow of recruits coming and to maintain the image of victory essential to it.

Regarding the second issue: seen from close up, the Islamic State is very obviously only a part, and not necessarily the main part, of a much larger problem. When talking both with those fighting with ISIS and with those who sympathize with it in the region, this observation stands out as a stark difference in perception between the Middle Eastern view of ISIS and the view of it presented in Western media. The latter tends to present ISIS as a strange and unique development, a dreadfully evil organization of unclear origins, which is the natural enemy of all mainstream forces in the Middle East.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi groups in Syria.

From closer up, the situation looks rather different.

ISIS has the same ideological roots and similar practices as other Salafi jihadi organizations active in the Syrian arena. ISIS treats non-Muslims brutally in the areas it controls, and adheres to a rigid and fanatical ideology based on a literalist interpretation and application of religious texts. But this description also applies to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria.

Nusra opposes ISIS, and is part of a rebel alliance supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. In March 2015, when Nusra captured Idleb City in northern Syria, the city’s 150 Christian families were forced to flee to Turkey. Nusra has also forcibly converted a small Druze community in Idleb. The alliance Nusra was a part of also included Muslim Brotherhood-oriented groups, such as the Faylaq al-Sham militia, which apparently had no problem operating alongside the jihadis.

ISIS is not a unique organization; rather, it exists at one of the most extreme points along a continuum of movements committed to Sunni political Islam.

Meanwhile, the inchoate mass of Sunni Islamist groups — of which ISIS constitutes a single component — is engaged in a region-wide struggle with a much more centralized bloc of states and movements organized around the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is committed to a Shia version of political Islam.

The Middle East — in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent Lebanon, all along the sectarian faultline of the region — is witnessing a clash between rival models of political Islam, of which ISIS is but a single manifestation.

The local players find sponsorship and support from powerful regional states, themselves committed to various different versions of political Islam: Iran for the Shias; Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Muslim Brotherhood-supporting Qatar for the Sunnis.

The long awakening of political Islam as the dominant form of popular politics in the Middle East started decades ago. But the eclipse of the political order in the region, and of the nationalist dictatorships in Iraq, Syria, Egypt (temporarily), Tunisia, and Yemen in recent years, has brought it to a new level of intensity.

States, indifferent to any norms and rules, using terror and subversion to advance their interests, jihadi armed groups, and the refugee crises and disorder that result from all this are the practical manifestations of it.

This, and not the fate of a single, fairly ramshackle jihadi entity in the badlands of eastern Syria and western Iraq, is the matter at hand in the Middle East.

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Jonathan Spyer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Energy and Environment
This may be the biggest news yet to come out of the Paris climate meeting

By Joby Warrick December 4, 2015, The Washington Post.

When it comes to electric power, Africa is still a continent in the dark. More than half of its 1.1 billion inhabitants lack access to electricity, and Africa’s total generating capacity, from Cairo to Cape Town, is only 160 gigawatts, or about half as much as Japan, a country with one-tenth of its population.

Against that backdrop, the plan unveiled this week by the African Union and African Development Bank is remarkably ambitious. Officials from the two organizations announced a goal of delivering at least 300 gigawatts—300 billion watts—of electricity-generating capacity to the continent by 2030, all from clean or renewable energy.


Put another way, in just 15 years Africa would be producing twice as much electricity from solar panels, wind farms, geothermal plants and hydropower than it currently generates from all sources combined.


“Our sunshine should do more than nourish our crops, it must light up our homes,” African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina said Tuesday at the formal launch of the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, which was announced during the international climate talks in Paris. “Our massive water resources should do more than water our farms, they must power our industries.”

Citing the continent’s “massive potentials” for renewable energy, Adesina said the plan would “renew Africa and turn it into a place full of light,” while offering the benefits of electric power to nearly 700 million people who lack it.

For a sense of the project’s ambitious scale, consider that China, the world’s leader in renewables, has a generating capacity of about 380 gigawatts, mostly from wind farms and hydropower. African nations would seek to build nearly as much capacity in less than two decades.

Bank officials said the huge undertaking was possible in part because of commitments from a $100 billion annual fund pledged by wealthy countries to fight climate change.
The World Bank Group has pledged $16 billion to pay for low-carbon energy development for the continent, and France and Germany have promised billions of dollars for clean energy.

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By funding clean-energy projects, the initiative would hasten the delivery of electric power to impoverished areas while allowing many African states to jump directly to advanced clean-energy technology rather than building power plants that burn fossil fuels, backers of the project said. At the same time, the projects will help reduce emissions of greenhouse-gas pollutants blamed for climate change.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Ki, in announcing new funding for African energy projects last week, described sub-Saharan Africa as “highly vulnerable to climate shocks,” with potential impacts ranging from increases in malaria epidemics to famine.

Adesina, in announcing the initiative, suggested that Western countries were morally obligated to help finance the continent’s energy transition, noting that Africa emits less carbon pollution than the rest of the world while also bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change.

“Africa suffers more from the scorching heat from rising temperatures, he said. “Droughts are now more frequent and with greater intensity than ever before.”

Adding 300 gigawatts of clean-energy capacity in 15 years will require martialing resources on an unprecedented scale, but Adesina said he believed the target could be met and even exceeded.

“We must not have low ambitions for Africa,” he said.

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Joby Warrick joined the Post’s national staff in 1996. He has covered national security, intelligence and the Middle East, and currently writes about the environment.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Record oil glut stands at 3 billion barrels.

MENAFN – Arab News – 14/11/2015

November 14, 2015 – the day after the Paris Massacre.

(MENAFN – Arab News) LONDON: The world is awash with oil having built record stockpiles in recent months and slowing demand growth combined with resilient non-OPEC supply could worsen the glut well into next year the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

‘Stockpiles of oil at a record 3 billion barrels are providing world markets with a degree of comfort’ the IEA said in a monthly report adding brimming stocks offer an unprecedented buffer against geopolitical shocks or unexpected supply disruptions.

Oil prices have more than halved in the past 18 months with supply bolstered by US shale oil output, and OPEC’s record production – the Arab News report says.

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